An Independence Day parade organized by Bayfield residents marched down East Mill Street on Saturday morning, after the town government canceled the official Fourth of July parade earlier this year.
An extravagant Independence Day parade has long been a Bayfield tradition, and residents who attended said that after all of the events and places that were closed because of COVID-19, the Fourth of July was too difficult of a tradition to cancel.
“It’s always been a big thing, bigger than Christmas,” said Bayfield resident Andy Baumgardner as he decorated his truck with red, white and blue streamers for the procession.
Bayfield residents Katie Taylor and Katherine Penning said they were excited and happy that someone in their community took the initiative to move forward with an Independence Day celebration to “take our freedom back.”
“You can’t stop freedom or our rights to celebrate Independence Day the way we want to,” Taylor said.
Bayfield veterans lead the parade carrying the American flag, the Colorado state flag and military flags. Old-fashioned cars and trucks decked out in red, white and blue followed in line, waving American flags and tossing candy to children in the crowd.
“This says so much for the little town of Bayfield, that they took it upon themselves,” said Candy Gerber, who has lived in Bayfield for almost 50 years.
A hay wagon with election signs for President Donald Trump and Lauren Boebert, Republican candidate to represent the 3rd Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives, also joined the parade. A horse-drawn cart displayed a poster with the words: “Socialism or Freedom?”
As ambulances and fire trucks drove past, sirens wailed and onlookers called out to thank emergency responders for their service.
Horseback riders on Western saddles waved American flags, followed by two carts pulled by miniature donkeys.
Tanya and Tom Boyce sold ice cream from their bright pink, old-fashioned truck as the last of the parade participants descended down the block.
“We’re patriotic, and it’s hard with the coronavirus to see everything shut down, though most of us understand why,” Tom Boyce said.
But people came out to celebrate Independence Day today because Bayfield is a “close-knit community,” and “people here love life,” Boyce said.
For Bayfield residents Kegan and Rebecca Mullen, Independence Day is an important time to come together.
“It’s amazing how in hard times like this, people will always have each others’ back,” Rebecca Mullen said.
Large gatherings pose a risk for spreading COVID-19, and case numbers are rising rapidly in nearby states like Arizona and Texas. Confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arizona hit 94,553 on Saturday, an increase of nearly 3,000 cases from the previous day. But for parade participant Evelyn Risen, the decision to cancel was made too early.
“We’re so lucky to be living in this small town, we feel protected,” Risen said. The burden of fear of COVID-19 has become too heavy for the community to bear, Risen said, and the parade is a chance for something positive in the community.
When Risen saw on Facebook that some locals were organizing their own parade, she knew she had to be involved, even though she’s “never done anything like this before,” she said.
Alison Rhodes, one of the organizers of the event, said she met with Bayfield’s town manager, Katie Sickles, a few days before the parade.
“We came to the determination that no permit was needed if we don’t block the roads, and if we follow road laws,” Rhodes said Friday. When one or two cars came the opposite way down East Mill Street on Saturday morning, the procession shifted to the right lane to let them through.
Event organizers purchased insurance, even though the town did not require it, Rhodes said. They also purchased portable toilets, though the restaurants lining the street were also open and operating.
“It’s a celebration of our independence,” Rhodes said, “just like the parades before.”
Participants on horseback sang the national anthem, and the crowd cheered on the veterans as the parade came around the block a second time.
“I can’t speak for everyone, but for me, this is a God thing,” Rhodes said. “I love my country, and I’ve been praying even harder.”
In Durango, county commissioner candidate Jack Turner led a procession of Harley-Davidson riders, a folk band on a decorated flatbed trailer and a woman dressed as the Statue of Liberty down Main Avenue late Saturday afternoon.
“My feeling is that it’s not the Fourth of July without a parade,” Turner said in a news release.