July 4th is a day of festivities all around the country and there is no exception in the small town of Lyme, Connecticut. These celebrations include barbeques, people of all ages sporting red, white, and blue, and the well-known 4th of July parade on Cove Road.
The parade was originally established by the late pediatrician, Dr. William Irving, a resident of Cove Road, who began the parade in 1958 as a way to demonstrate patriotism and celebrate America on the birthdate of our country. It is said that it was his son who sparked the idea, bored and wondering why Lyme didn’t already have a parade.
No one quite knows quite when this parade will kick off each year as it is not a town-sponsored event, nor is it arranged by a specific group or association. It begins whenever everyone gets there, or as Dr. Irving was often quoted as saying, “somewhere precisely between 10 and 11 a.m.”
Dr. Irving organized the parade each year and ensured all appropriate groups were contacted for their participation. He served as the parade’s grand marshal until 2008, when he stepped down after 50 years. The parade has evolved over time into a true community experience, where Lyme residents come together and celebrate their country through cheering, candy and music. Participants change yearly, but always consist of dedicated townspeople who wish to spend the holiday with their friends, families and neighbors.
There is no order in which people march – spots are determined by who shows up first. Among these participants is always Camp Claire, with children and staff of all ages from the summer camp just down the road dressed in red, white, and blue, marching with enthusiasm. The Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts also are a regular presence with their pack leaders in uniform waving flags. Volunteers from the town’s fire department and ambulance association walk to show their support. Members of the Lyme Corgi Club proudly march along with their dogs to celebrate. Various old-fashioned vehicles can be seen driving the parade route from Cove Road to the fairgrounds. Any Lyme citizen of any age is welcome to walk, drive, scoot, bike, glide, fly, swim, hover, skip, slip-n-slide or march in the 0.4-mile parade to show their national and town spirit.
Along with the parade, Irving also created other celebratory July 4th traditions, some of which persist to this day. Second Selectman, Parker Lord, leads the ceremonial firing of the muskets to mark the beginning of the parade – a shot heard ‘round the town announcing the beginning of the procession. After the parade ends, the Lyme Parks and Recreation Department sponsors a barbeque at the Grange, where people from the town mingle and eat. This tradition has only begun within the past 10 years but has become a staple of the annual observance.
Dr. Irving, after each parade, would go to Cove Road Bridge and throw in tea bags in honor of the progress made since the colonists performed the historic act known as the Boston Tea Party. This tradition is no longer observed; it stopped in 2015 when Dr. Irving passed away. A well-loved and much-missed member of the Lyme community, Dr. Irving’s memory lives on in the annual Cove Road parade.
NOTE: This article was written by Sadie Frankel, a student at Lyme-Old Lyme High School, and originally appeared on the Town Facebook page.