Ann Arbor cheers annual Fourth of July parade

Kayla Ruble
The Detroit News

The sidewalks of downtown Ann Arbor were lined with people and American flags on Monday morning as hundreds gathered to celebrate the city’s annual Fourth of July Parade.

Local organizations and politicians marched through the streets, waving and tossing candy into the crowds as onlookers applauded, the city streets teeming with energy as the crowd marked the first Independence Day parade in three years.

The relatively small parade was filled with a diverse group of organizations and vehicles. There were two snowplows draped in American flags entertaining the crowd with synchronized maneuvers and a Nepalese rickshaw vehicle decked out in red, white and blue decorations. A massive rainbow flag for LGBTQ Pride and a gold Chinese dragon moved along with the parade. 

“(We’re) very, very happy that this is back,” said Lingzhi Chen, 63, a co-principal at the Ann-Hua Chinese School in Ann Arbor, which marched in the parade.

There were dozens representing the group, including young students, a group of women drummers, a white truck decked out in Chinese lanterns and the gold dragon, a crowd favorite. After the festivities, Chen was still beaming from the energy of the event.

A glowing yellow dragon sponsored by the Ann-Hua Chinese School delights the crowd during the annual Ann Arbor Jaycees Fourth of July Parade.

“The past two years were really hard on us because we want to be a presence in the community,” she said. “So today was huge because we are just so proud to be part of it.”

The school, which has about 4,400 students, has been participating in the event since it opened in the early 1990s. The school takes its role in the community seriously, participating in events throughout the year in the Ann Arbor area, Chen said.

“We use our culture like a tradition to celebrate this national holiday,” said Chen, who especially enjoyed hearing the crowd's reactions to the dragon and the drum team.  “A lot of us are not necessarily U.S. citizens, but we are residents of the country, so we’re very proud.”

Fourteen-year-old Sydney Smart plays the trombone with the Berkley high school marching band during the 4th of July parade in Huntington Woods, July 4, 2022.

For the Patterson family, watching the glistening Chinese dragon glide by was their favorite part of the parade. 

Becky Patterson said she and her husband, Hamerstein Patterson, have been attending the parade as family for about 10 years, since their oldest daughter was a baby. 

“I think it was awesome, it was hot, but they still pushed through,” she said, as her son stood next to her waving a small American flag.

The family lives in Ypsilanti, but Hamerstein Patterson grew up in Ann Arbor and has been coming to the parade for most of his life. For the 47-year-old, the event was a reminder of everything he loves about Ann Arbor.

“Just the ambiance, it’s the best city on the planet,” he said. “It’s just the culture of Ann Arbor is unlike anywhere else. ... I just love being out here.”

For him, the culture of Ann Arbor is defined by a feeling of inclusiveness and openness. Both he and Becky said they enjoyed the LGBTQ Pride section of the parade, which earned heavy applause along the parade route. 

A few blocks up, along the parade route on Main Street, a group of a women, who met after having their first babies and have remained close friends ever since, watched the parade with their families. The Independence Day outing had been a tradition for about six years until it was interrupted by the pandemic.

“We're excited to be back for this year's parade,” said Ashley Moran, a mother of two. “It was really fun for all of us to be back together… the tradition is very meaningful to us.”

People cheer during the 4th of July parade in Huntington Woods, July 4, 2022.

On the corner of West Liberty and Main Street, Gretchen and Tony Chaudhuri watched the parade from folding chairs.

The couple, who lives in Saline, used to go to the parade frequently when their kids were growing up. Gretchen would march in the parade with their twin daughters. When they woke up on Monday morning, they decided to revisit the Ann Arbor celebration for the first time in years. 

Tanya Stephens and other members of the group Mardi Gras Productions, dance with costumes during the 4th of July parade in Huntington Woods, July 4, 2022.

“There's always something to do here. You just got to look it up and find out what's happening,” she said.

Even after the parade wrapped up, the couple stayed seated, watching as parade goers dispersed and the streets filled with pedestrians, including a man dressed up as Uncle Sam, taking advantage of the sunny holiday morning in Ann Arbor. 

“People were happy, smiling. We're staying here just to keep the energy,” she said.