Preparation for the Fourth of July parade is well underway, both for Parade Committee members and organizations like the Broomall Rotary Club, whose float will ride in the annual parade this year.
This is the 27th year that Marple Newtown has hosted a parade, Marple Township Commissioner and head of the Parade Committee Jan Ceton said.
"We've always had a parade in Marple," Ceton said, "But for many years the parade was sponsored by the Jaysees. They were losing members and not getting new ones, but a couple were holding on to keep the parade going. The last year they had the parade, it had really dwindled, and there were only a couple good floats."
So more than 25 years ago, Ceton decided that he wanted to keep the parade going, but saw that the organization that ran it was deteriorating. "I got the idea that we needed a new committee," he said.
Ceton went to Frank Videon of the Rotary Club and told him the problem. "I said, 'We need a parade committee with members from different organizations, so it won't fall apart if one of the organizations [bows out].'"
And so began the Marple Newtown Fourth of July Parade, more than 25 years ago. The route changed a few times in the first few years, to include more of Newtown, but for the past 24 years, the route has followed through from St. Albans Circle in Newtown Square to its finish at the Broomall Fire House.
Floats have been a part of the parade since the beginning with a variety of prizes handed out for floats, bikes and the like. The tradition has been that any resident or organization can create a float or ride a bike in the parade so long as they register.
The Broomall Rotary Club is one club that's been involved since the beginning and this week, they've been busy working on their float. Broomall Rotary members gathered at the barn at the Garrett Williamson Foundation on Tuesday evening to work on this year's project.
"We're going to build a firecracker," Broomall Rotary Club President Paul Quintavalla said, pointing at the oversized "firecracker" in the corner of the barn.
Last year, the Rotary Club presented a similar firecracker-themed float to promote the club's first-ever Firecracker 5K race, which takes place before the parade. In honor of this year's race, "This is the updated 2011 version," Quintavalla said.
"Part of the reason for our participation in the parade is to give the community some sense of what we're about," Rotary member Russ Kehler said. "We do tremendous work in the community: we do a student of the month program at local high schools, we give out scholarships to high school seniors and so much more."
Most people don't know what the Rotary Club does, Kehler said. To that end, the club's portion of the parade will also include signs that advertise a few of the activities the Rotary Club supports or sponsors.
The volunteers who will hold the Rotary Club signs are high school students involved in Marple Newtown High School's Interact club, a service program for students that is co-sponsored by the Broomall and Newtown Square Rotary Clubs.
"By participating in the parade, we get out the message that we're doing a lot of good in the community," Kehler said. "It's not so much that we're looking for a pat on the back, but we do try to let the community know we do these programs. A lot of time people see us in the parade and say, 'That's neat, I want to participate.'"
Many rotarians become involved after learning about an interesting or meaningful project the club does, such as the Nigerian Water Project, of which Kehler is the chair, and resulted in the installation of a $52,000 water purification system in the village of Kwang, Nigeria.
"It makes us feel really good to know that at the very least, dozens of people are alive today that wouldn't be if we hadn't done that, and for hundreds of people, their quality of life has been improved," Kehler said. "There's at least a few people here tonight that got involved in the Rotary Club through that. And for how many activities you're involved with can you say, 'I helped save lives?'"
As many as a thousand people participate in the Marple Newtown parade each year, Ceton said. Usually the crowd that comes out to see the festivities is larger when July 4th falls mid-week, but it's a pretty large crowd regardless.
"It's a big tradition here," Ceton said.
The Firecracker 5K Run begins at 9:25 a.m. on Monday, leading the parade, with prizes awarded at 10:30 a.m.
The parade itself begins at 10 a.m at St. Albans Circle in Newtown Township and ends at the Broomall Fire House. Bikes, strollers, wagons & hand-drawn floats can register on July 4th at St. Anastasia's at 9 a.m. (No motorized vehicles, no unlicensed drivers, helmets required, and skaters must wear costumes.) See the website for more details.