A Beginner's Guide to Racine's 4th Fest Parade
If you’ve never been to the annual spectacle that is the Fourth Fest Parade in Racine, you don’t know what you’re missing.
Because this is your first parade, we present these eight pointers to help ensure you’ll have a great time with family and friends.
- Find a curbside seat. And do so early. But not too early. The days of all-night campouts are gone. The earliest you can stake your claim is 5 a.m. on parade day. Park your car on a nearby side street or, better still, pile the kids on your shoulders and walk to Main Street. (Hey, this is the stuff of great memories and traditions.) Bring sunglasses, sunscreen, a blanket and/or lawn chairs, flags, and a cooler, but leave the fireworks and Silly String at home (more on that later). Oh, yeah. Wear the most outlandishly patriotic garb you’ve got. Where else are you going to wear that shirt and get away with it? Main St. closes to all traffic to the north (Goold St. to the Main St. bridge) at 7 a.m., and to traffic on the south (Main St. bridge to 14th St.) at 7:30 a.m.
- Make friends with your parade-route neighbors. Who knows? After today, you might become lifelong friends – at least on the Fourth. Stranger things have happened along this 2.6-mile parade route over 75 years! Soak in the ambience of sitting among 100,000 of your closest friends.
- Cover your ears when the pre-parade starts. OK, don’t ask what a pre-parade is or we’ll have to launch into the old George Carlin routine about pre-boarding an airplane and pre-heating an oven. Suffice to say that the pre-parade features all the noisy entries: police cars, fire engines, military vehicles, classic cars, Case tractors, earth-moving equipment, politicians ... (No, wait. The politicians come later.) Our law-enforcement and emergency-service friends from Sturtevant, Mount Pleasant, Caledonia and other municipalities join us during this first leg of the parade. The pre-parade starts at 8:30 from Goold and Main streets on Racine’s north side. The first units will probably hit the halfway point (Monument Square) by 8:45 and the parade’s end (Golden Rondelle on 14th Street) by 9:00.
- Settle in for the main event. The theme of this year’s parade is "75 Years of Goodwill Celebrations" so watch for lots of units celebrating our community and all it has to offer. Ooohing and ahhhing is encouraged, as is wild applause when your favorite unit passes by. While every spectator has his or her favorite, here are a half-dozen must-sees in the 150-unit march: the Agerholm-Gross Det. #346 Marine Corps League's Iwo Jima float; the Racine Scouts Drum & Bugle Corps; Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 767; American Legion Post 310 Bronze Float; Racine Fourth Fest Calliope (pronounced "kal-ee-OPE," if you’re a true parade fan). Don’t get us wrong: All the units in-between are great, too, and represent thousands of hours of precision marching, music rehearsal, float building and such. Show your gratitude in your own special way.
- Welcome our special guests. Many units have come from around the region, some from around the country. Show your appreciation. Welcome our honorary parade marshal "TBA"
- Cheer for the award-winning floats and bands. Each award-winning float will be preceded by a banner announcing its win. Floats are judged on six criteria: design (arrangement of detail), expression (does it follow the theme?), proportion, artistic appeal (does it capture your interest?), color harmony and originality. Floats are judged before the parade in two divisions: industrial and nonindustrial. Drum & bugle corps and marching bands are judged during the parade and awards are presented afterward. In almost all cases, floats have been built by employees, church members, 4-H’ers, and other amateurs who spend countless hours working for your parade-day appreciation. Let them know how much you approve of their efforts as their masterpieces drive by.
- Be safe. This one is a no-brainer. Three things to remember: (1) no silly string or any other celebratory gook that makes a mess of antique-car paint-jobs, band uniforms, and/or the street; (2) no “poppers” or other fireworks that can spook horses 10 times your size; and (3) no needless crossing in front of parade units (like floats) that may need to brake suddenly to avoid making you a permanent part of their entry, thereby endangering those on the float and others around you who would much prefer to see a smooth-flowing, gapless, injury-free parade.
- Have a safe trip home and rest up for the fireworks. Then, before leaving, gather your belongings, swap phone numbers with your newfound parade buddies, carefully make your way back home, and plan for next year’s parade.