By EMMALEE C. TORISK
John Medvec Sr. stopped counting years ago how long he and his family have been organizing the city’s annual Fourth of July parade.
He guesses it’s been more than 30 years since they started to orchestrate the 3-mile-long event filled with decorated floats, classic cars and the high-school marching band — which is quite the achievement, considering that the parade itself is only in its 38th year.
Now, the family affair that is planning the Struthers Fourth of July Parade includes him; his wife, Diane Medvec; his daughter, Stacey Medvec Newyear; and his two sons, John Medvec Jr. and Daniel Medvec.
“People appreciate [it]. They look forward to it,” he said of the parade. “There’s always going to be a parade in Struthers. It’s in our blood.”
As usual, the Struthers Fourth of July Parade will start promptly at noon Friday from the Fifth Street Plaza, at Fifth Street and Manor Avenue, and will travel along Sexton Street, Poland Avenue, Smithfield Street, then Fifth Street back to the plaza.
The Medvecs first began thinking about this year’s parade barely a month after last year’s had ended, looking into any adjustments they could make to help the festivities run better, then began their planning in earnest back in January.
They have it down to a science now but still enjoy the task, especially when participants, such as the city’s sports teams and its local businesses, are enthusiastic about appearing in the parade. Medvec added that he’s also motivated by seeing everyone who lines the streets of Struthers to watch the parade each year.
“We have people who come back off the route, and they can’t believe how many people in Struthers are in their front yards or up on porches. It’s just packed all the way around, with people everywhere,” Medvec said. “We want to have people enjoy the Fourth of July right in their yard.”
Though the Medvecs have long been behind the city’s parade, its current sponsor — the Struthers School Foundation for Education Excellence, which funds extended educational activities not provided by the school district — is in just its second year. Historically, the parade’s sponsor is responsible for acquiring trophies and recruiting judges to determine winners in several categories, including “Most Patriotic” and “Loudest Siren.”
Past sponsors include the Struthers Baseball League and, most recently, the Struthers Business Association. When the latter organization stepped down, Danny Thomas Jr., president of the Struthers School Foundation, was one of many in the city who didn’t want to see the parade stop.
So, the Struthers School Foundation stepped up to the plate to save the citywide tradition.
“We thought, ‘If we don’t do this, we could lose this,’” Thomas said. “It means so much to the community. ... We didn’t want to lose it.”
This year’s parade will feature Marian Kutlesa — whom Thomas called “a longtime community activist, keeper of the Struthers Historical Society and all-around great person” — as its grand marshal. Last year’s was Jerry Schonhut, who organized the city’s first Fourth of July parade in 1976 as chairman of the Struthers Bicentennial Committee.
Kutlesa said she felt honored to be chosen for the designation and that she was hoping to ride in the parade with either her daughter, Debbie Zetts, or her great-granddaughter, 5-year-old Aubrey Morgan.
“I just think [the parade] is a thing of pride, with its involvement of so many citizens,” Kutlesa said. “I’m just glad for all the participants and all the viewers. It makes such a nice community thing.”