Boxer Kelly Pavlik served as the parade’s grand marshal.
By ANGIE SCHMITT
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
AUSTINTOWN — It may have seemed like November in the township, but for the truckloads of cheerleaders, the boom of drumlines, and the crowd that gathered along a candy-littered Raccoon Road.
For 31 years, Austintown has been celebrating Independence Day the same way.
French horns and firetrucks, classic cars and convertibles, peewee football teams and political candidates filled the street between Kirk Road and Fitch High School despite foreboding skies, cool conditions and patches of rain. Marchers’ friends and family members dotted the crowd watching from lawn chairs and curbsides.
“We have a lot of church groups, baseball teams and a lot of different organizations,” said parade Chairman Chris Lewis. “In Austintown, we really don’t have many events that the whole community can get involved in. I think that’s why so may people get involved with the parade and attend the parade.”
Lewis said wet weather may have hampered attendance but not parade entries. They start rolling in each year two hours after the parade ends, he said. Nearly as many people attend the parade as marched its 11⁄2 mile route this year, he estimates.
Professional boxer Kelly Pavlik of Youngstown served as the parade’s grand marshal.
Intermittent sprinkling didn’t stop the leagues of loyal parents and grandparents supporting tiny band members, cheerleaders and church-group float-riders either.
Three generations of Schertzers crowded under the canopy erected beside Raccoon Road near the end of the parade route. Some 25 family members gathered beneath were going to see their 7-year-old Little Falcons cheerleader rain or shine.
Darris and Michelle Binion brought their video camera to capture their 6-year-old daughter Hunter marching with the squad.
“We’re gonna see her come by in her cheerleading uniform and see how happy she is,” said Darris Binion, who himself marched in the parade years ago.
Austintown Fourth of July Parade participation and attendance spans generations in many Austintown families.
Kathy Solic’s two grandchildren were marching with their gymnastics team.
“We’ve been coming since the kids were in the band,” Solic said. “Now we bring the grandchildren.”
Representing four generations of Grodskis, seasoned parade-goer Helen Grodski, 85, still jumps for candy thrown from trucks with her grandchildren and great-grandchildren in the street.
Grodski has lived on the parade route for more than 50 years, she said. The parade is a tradition in her family, and so is the party that follows.
“The kids enjoy it, we enjoy it,” she said. “Then we go in the backyard and cook hot dogs.”
Austintown’s parade has gained notoriety over the years, drawing crowds from outside township lines, Lewis said.
Former Austintown residents Tom and Kathy McCann made the trip from Liberty for the parade. “We like to watch the different bands and firetrucks,” said Tom McCann. “It’s a good family event.”
The couple’s 7-year-old daughter, Kimmie, however was most enthusiastic about candy.
“I’m a little biased, but I would say it’s probably the premier event in area as far as daytime [4th of July] events in the area,” said Lewis, who has been leading the local parade effort for seven years.