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News / Clark County News

Small town, big celebration: Ridgefield Fourth of July parade is a destination for thousands

Revelers brave the heat to enjoy town's annual tradition of fun, patriotism

By Alexis Weisend, Columbian staff reporter
Published: July 4, 2024, 6:26pm
10 Photos
Spectators line Pioneer Street as the Ridgefield Fourth of July Parade rolls in Ridgefield.
Spectators line Pioneer Street as the Ridgefield Fourth of July Parade rolls in Ridgefield. (Photos by taylor balkom/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

RIDGEFIELD — Though Ridgefield’s population has grown by a third since 2020, its Fourth of July Festival is a reminder that small-town traditions and community still run deep within the growing city, organizers say.

“It’s important to keep traditions, and we want to remind people who move here of that,” Festival Director Sandy Schill said. “We’re trying to keep that hometown feel as we grow.”

The festival, with floats, honking trucks and local cheerleaders, has filled Ridgefield streets every Fourth of July for about a century (with the occasional interruption of a war or, in this decade’s case, a pandemic).

Around 5,000 people attend every year, according to the event’s website. The event is organized by about 100 volunteers, Schill said.

25 Photos
Elle Peterson, 13, of Ridgefield, shows off her bejeweled sunglasses Thursday, July 4, 2024, in Ridgefield.
2024 Ridgefield Fourth of July Parade Photo Gallery

This year, thousands of people in red, white and blue packed Pioneer Street in Ridgefield’s downtown to view the parade, despite the heat. Babies in bucket hats and children watched horses, people in colonial dress and floats go by from comically small pop-up chairs.

“Occasionally, people say, ‘it’s the same thing every year,’ ” Schill said. “But the 5-year-olds get so excited about it … we try to keep in mind it’s for the kids.”

Jennifer Reed, a Brush Prairie resident, said she’s been to the parade four years in a row, but this time is special — it’s the first year her 3-year-old daughter might remember the parade.

“It’s really fun to see their faces,” she said, looking back at her daughter.

The parade is also a fun alternative to fireworks shows for people sensitive to the noise, like her, she said.

Although fireworks are banned year-round in Vancouver and most days in other parts of Clark County, certain areas allow fireworks specifically on the Fourth of July.

Parking was difficult to find at the parade for many, even with shuttles running from Ridgefield High School.

Christianna Sanchez, a Ridgefield resident and mother of three, was worried that it would be challenging to get her son, who now uses a wheelchair, to the parade. But she was relieved to see the parking lots closest to the parade were reserved for handicapped parking, she said.

From their spot on the grass, she thought about ways Ridgefield has changed and stayed the same over the last nine years she’s lived there.

“When we first moved here, there wasn’t even a grocery store or a Starbucks,” she said. “Stuff like this feels small-town.”

Susana Alvarado, who has lived in Ridgefield her whole life, agrees that the city has changed, especially with many people moving there from out of state recently. Still, she appreciates that Ridgefield is a place where diverse communities can come together to celebrate traditions like the parade.

Alvarado rode in the back of a pickup truck in the parade, leading dozens of people on horseback. She had both the United States and the Mexican flag on the truck to celebrate her cultures, she said.

“It’s a small town with a variety of people,” she said. “It’s kind of awesome to see people of different cultures come together.”

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This story was made possible by Community Funded Journalism, a project from The Columbian and the Local Media Foundation. Top donors include the Ed and Dollie Lynch Fund, Patricia, David and Jacob Nierenberg, Connie and Lee Kearney, Steve and Jan Oliva, The Cowlitz Tribal Foundation and the Mason E. Nolan Charitable Fund. The Columbian controls all content. For more information, visit columbian.com/cfj.