Nation's birthday to be honored with parade, Bethany-beach style

For just shy of three decades, the Bethany Beach 4th of July Parade has been entertaining thousands, celebrating the holiday with floats, cyclists and bands, leading to a fireworks finale to cap off the evening. On Wednesday, July 4, the 29th Annual Bethany Beach 4th of July Parade offers fun and excitement for the whole family. The theme of this year’s parade encourages participants and spectators to “Come and Celebrate Our National Birthday, Bethany Beach Style.”

Coastal Point • File Photo: This pooch sits next to his best friend during a past Bethany Beach Fourth of July Parade. This year’s parade will be held on Wednesday, July 4, at noon.Coastal Point • File Photo
This pooch sits next to his best friend during a past Bethany Beach Fourth of July Parade. This year’s parade will be held on Wednesday, July 4, at noon.

Each year, parade chairman Phillip Rossi finds a theme for the Bethany Beach tradition, and this week’s Fourth of July parade pays homage to the state’s history.

“We’re honoring the formation of the Delaware Militia in the Revolutionary War,” explained Rossi, who has been heading the event for the past nine years. “That was the original Delaware National Guard. This is a great way that the town and everybody involved can honor the great history of our state.”

This year’s grand marshal is Maj. Gen. Frank Vavalla, Adjutant General of the Delaware National Guard. And the 287th Army Band of the Delaware Army National Guard will march at the head of this year’s parade.

Preparation for the parade each year is no easy task. The event is put together by a parade committee and hard work from volunteers, while all the financial support comes by means of donations and two primary fundraisers — Bethany Beach 4th of July Parade T-shirt sales and, more recently, the Firecracker 5K, which will be held this year in downtown Bethany Beach on Sunday, July 1.

Over the past eight years, the parade T-shirts have been designed by local artist Jennifer E. Carter, who brought to life this year’s motif, highlighting Delaware’s history with the slogan of “LIFE: Liberty, Independence, Freedom and Emancipation.” Carter will also be singing the “Star-Spangled Banner” at noon on July 4, to kick off the parade.

This year’s 4th of July Parade T-shirts can be purchased each day leading up to the parade at the Bethany Beach Bandstand, and remaining shirts will also be available on July 4, throughout the day. Shirts cost $15 for adults or $10 for children.

The T-shirts have come to hold a sense of nostalgia and historical convention, with many returning spectators collecting them over the years. For Charlotte Mulvihill, who has been coming to Bethany Beach with her family each summer since the 1980s, it was a custom she didn’t want to lose.

“Our family had shirts from the parade for years and years,” she said, “and as [the shirts] started to deteriorate and get holes, I wanted to do something to keep them around.”

With some help and guidance from her mother, Helen Graeber, Mulvihill constructed a quilt out of the old shirts, which will be on display at the Bethany Beach Town Hall this summer. For a personal touch, she also included work shirts worn by her three children at Moss Wagner’s ice cream shops that once operated in Bethany Beach.

“Lots of families have great memories over the years of the parade,” said Rossi, “and many families keep coming back, year after year.”

“One of the most rewarding parts of the parade,” said Bethany Beach Entertainment Director Gloria Farrar, “is seeing all of the family participation. Kids get involved, riding bikes in the parade, and everyone along the street really enjoys watching everyone go by.”

The parade will begin at noon on Wednesday, July 4, starting at the southwest corner of the Bethany Beach Christian Church grounds. Bands, trucks, floats, cyclists and more will head to Pennsylvania Avenue and continue south. The parade will the turn left on Cedarwood Street, then left again on Atlantic Avenue, where they will head north towards Garfield Parkway and the reviewing stand. From there, it will continue north to Ocean View Parkway before turning left on Pennsylvania Avenue and ending back again on the Christian Church grounds.

Floats and trucks with bands hailing state-wide, and even from New Jersey and Pennsylvania, will provide music.

“All of the spectators get a kick out of them,” said Rossi, “and they love seeing people dancing along the streets. These guys are professionals — true entertainers. This is what they love to do.”

Following the parade, Joe Lank will hold the 24th Annual Horseshoe Throwing Contest at 2 p.m. at the southwest corner of the Christian Church Grounds, complete with an amateur and professional division. Also at 2 p.m., Ruthie’s Bethany Bakery will hold their 3rd Annual Blueberry Pie Eating Contest, located adjacent to the Christian Church building.

An awards ceremony for floats in the parade will be presented at the Bethany Beach Boardwalk bandstand at 7:15 p.m., while the Milford Community Band will be providing music starting at 7:30 p.m. The Town of Bethany Beach’s Fourth of July fireworks display will begin on the beach at dusk.

There is no preregistration for floats and cyclists, but those interested are welcome to show up the day of the race and register between 9 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. Float registration will take place at Route 1 and Central Avenue, while the location for bike registration will be at the Christian Church grounds.

“The kids really love getting out there and riding their bikes in the parade,” said Rossi. “We’ve had close to 1,000 cyclists one year.”

The parade committee is a volunteer group, and their event is geared toward the entire family.

“All of our volunteers do a great job putting everything together,” Rossi added. “Gloria Farrar and my wife, Mary, are also a big help. I couldn’t do this without them. [The committee] works, year-round, and the local emergency departments and the town council really come together to make the parade special.”

For more information about the parade, visit the Town of Bethany Beach Web site at For additional information about float and bicycle registration or volunteering for the parade, contact Phillip Rossi at town hall, at (302) 539-8011, ext. 24.