From the town line at Warren, it’s easy to see why some locals call Bristol the most patriotic town in America.
Since May, small American flags began to appear along Hope Street’s sidewalk, heading south toward the Fourth of July parade route. A simple, handwritten sign led the charge, inviting others to add a flag to the Bristol Fourth of July parade. And they did.
In two weeks, a town with a population of 23,000 will play host to over 200,000 visitors who flock to Hope and High Streets to take part in the oldest Fourth of July celebration in the country.
“We definitely welcome everyone who’s never been to the Fourth of July parade and everyone who is returning,” Town Administrator Tony Teixeira said.
In preparation for Bristol’s biggest event of the year, town department heads begin the final planning in May, ensuring that all the puzzle pieces are in place for the weeks leading up to July 4.
“We’ve had meetings with department heads to go through the checklist. Not that they haven’t done this before,” Mr. Teixeira said.
On Friday, June 20, the Fourth of July free concert series will kick-off at Independence Park. At 6:30 p.m., acoustic-electric trio, Rendition, will open up for Band of Brothers who goes on at 7:45 p.m.
From then, the series will feature a variety of bands every night through July 3.
“The concerts will draw anywhere from 2,000 to 3,500 people a night,” Mr. Teixeira said.
The number in attendance varies with the band performing and the weather, he said.
For local businesses, the weeks leading up to the Fourth are a boon for them. At Flags at the Landing on Thames Street, the selection of gift items, outdoor home décor, and, of course flags, are hot items leading into July.
“A lot of people come in and want to decorate their house for the Fourth of July decorating contest,” said store manager, John Metaxas.
For him, the Fourth of July activities is an opportunity to draw people into the heart of Bristol, not just to the edges – Colt State Park, Roger Williams University and Mt. Hope Farm. Mr. Metaxas compares Bristol to a donut, with everyone drawn to the outer edges.
“Colt State Park is a destination,” he said. Activities like the Fourth events “bring people down this way.”
For the newly re-opened Judge Roy Bean Saloon, co-owned by Bristol residents, Zachary Rivers and Randy Ross, Mr. Rivers hopes his new venture will benefit from the festivities in the town.
“It’s an amazing location and a very unique building,” he said of the restaurant/bar at the corner of Thames Street and State Street.
To give diners added appeal, Mr. Rivers creates an al fresco ambiance by removing the first floor corner windows.
“I’m looking forward to the Fourth. I’m not sure exactly what to expect, but we are looking forward to it,” he said.
Along with the increase of visitors, there will also be an increase in law enforcement to ensure the safety and enjoyment for all. Bristol Police will be aided by officers from neighboring departments, as well as state and federal agencies.
And while the events leading up to the Fourth of July main event, on July 5th, the town returns to its near normal pace.
After the parade, Metacom Avenue is turned into a three-lane road, two lanes heading north to Warren and one lane south to help the flow of traffic. Within an hour and a half, said Mr. Teixeira, the town is empty.
“Some people will hang around a couple of days after the parade, but everything is low key,” he said. “All the hustle and bustle is over.”
And as for some Bristol hospitality, Mr. Teixeira said his door is open to anyone visiting the parade for the first time.
“An extra burger or hot dog or extra piece of chourico” will be waiting, he said.