RIDGEFIELD – For 31 years and running, Barb Patee has watched Ridgefield’s Independence Day parade from the best possible seat: her front lawn on Pioneer Street, right in the heart of downtown.
“When it started, I knew everyone on the floats,” Patee said. “There were a lot of familiar faces,” many of which belonged to her daughter’s generation as they came up through Ridgefield public schools.
Much has changed since then, Patee said Monday morning. Thousands of people were flocking into downtown to occupy sidewalks, dance to a DJ, march in two different parades – one for kids and pets, another for grownups and floats – and enjoy tasty treats from food and drink vendors. A laser light show, replacing fire-risky fireworks, was planned for Monday evening.
While Patee can’t know everyone in the parade the way she used to, she said, she enjoys greeting the people who set up parade-viewing stations on the sidewalk in front of her home.
“I’m still tickled” to make new friends and to share the whole experience with her mother, Jeanette Wilson, Patee said.
Ridgefield has been called Washington’s fastest-growing municipality, with a population that leapt from 4,763 in 2010 to an estimated 12,514 in 2021, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
That whole-town population figure is pretty much equivalent to the size of crowds that have turned out for Fourth of July festivities in recent years, according to Kristen Riggs of the Ridgefield Heritage Society. There were around 12,000 parade viewers in 2019, Riggs said, and this year didn’t look any different.
“People come here from other communities because they hear about our parade,” she said. “It definitely shines a light on our home-town spirit.”
“Nothing like it Eugene (Ore.),” agreed Heather Holmes, who loves visiting her Ridgefield sister on the Fourth of July — and who was sporting a “Keep Calm, You’re in Ridgefield” T-shirt that she picked up in the souvenir tent.
Battle Ground resident Pat Murphy, a veteran of both the U.S. Army and the U.S. Navy, said she never misses Ridgefield’s annual parade.
“I absolutely love watching the kids,” said Murphy, adding that she’s proud of her 15 years of military service overseas, where she always strove to be a respectful, respectable and responsible symbol of America.
The parade got underway with a flyover of fighter jets and singing of the National Anthem. After that, the local American Legion Color Guard led things off — followed by 103-year-old American Legion veteran William “Lucky” Mullins, waving a flag and grinning from the passenger seat of a Ford Bronco.
Soon after came Thing 1 and Thing 2, the mischievous gremlins from Dr. Seuss’ “The Cat in the Hat,” personifying this year’s parade theme, “Books and stories.” Hot on their heels was a pirate distributing free pencils, a kid in a Mountain Dew costume distributing free soft drinks (courtesy of parade sponsor Corwin Beverage) and a heavy-metal drummer riding on a float and pounding joyfully away for donations to fight muscular dystrophy.
“We used to go to the fort on the Fourth,” 16-year Ridgefield resident Linda VahnDijk said. “But then we discovered this amazing town and fell in love.”