Locals welcome back “Happy Birthday America” celebrations

Published: Jul. 4, 2022 at 6:33 PM EDT
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This morning the Happy Birthday America parade passed through Gypsy Hill Park in Staunton after...
This morning the Happy Birthday America parade passed through Gypsy Hill Park in Staunton after the last two years of hiatus.(WHSV)

STAUNTON, Va. (WHSV) - This morning the Happy Birthday America parade passed through Gypsy Hill Park in Staunton after a two-year hiatus.

The parade is a tradition for many in the Queen City, spanning generations. It all started with the Statler Brothers in 1970. Since then, many families in the Valley have been coming to the celebration.

“This is a tradition for us. We were born and raised here, so this has always been a tradition to come to Happy Birthday USA,” said parade-goer Barbara Painter.

For her and her husband, Keith Painter, celebrating the Fourth in Staunton took shape in 1970 when the Statler Brothers put the event together.

“I love the Statlers, always have. I grew up listening to them with my dad. I mean, there’s nothing like the Statler Brothers for me,” Barbara said.

One onlooker, Peter Adams, said he had a good time at the parade, but he had notes for event organizers.

“I think it was pretty great. I mean, they didn’t do as much throwing candy as I would like, but it was pretty good,” Adams said.

While many were out enjoying today’s festivities, others across the country and in the Valley said they don’t feel like celebrating Independence Day with the recent overturning of Roe V. Wade and other events.

Local activist and veteran Andrea Jackson said she is celebrating the Fourth, even if she’s frustrated. She said today is a good day to have conversations about independence.

“I’m a proud American. I served in the country. Ain’t nobody more patriotic than a Black veteran because when you put your all for the country who don’t love you back. You love your country, and your country don’t love you back,” Jackson said.

Jackson referenced the James Baldwin quote: “I love America more than any other country in the world, and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.”

She said she wants to see positive changes toward equity.

A group of organizers gathered in Downtown Staunton to protest the overturning of Roe v. Wade. Celebrations will continue in Gypsy Hill Park and will conclude with a firework show after Wilson Fairchild and Rhonda Vincent perform.

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