COMMERCIAL-NEWS | ROBERT TOMLINSON - Officers from the Kalamazoo County Sheriff’s Office parade the American flag and the flag for the State of Michigan near the front of Monday’s Independence Day parade in Schoolcraft. Monday’s parade was the first one held in the village since 2019 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with thousands lining the streets to celebrate the day.COMMERCIAL-NEWS | ROBERT TOMLINSON - (From left to right) Monroe Musselman, Kara Birmingham, Harper Musselman, Ava Birmingham and Knox Musselman of Texas Corners wave American flags and show off the goodies they received during Monday’s Independence Day parade in Schoolcraft.COMMERCIAL-NEWS | ROBERT TOMLINSON - A man riding a tricycle scooter glides by with a red-white-and-blue banner during Monday’s Independence Day parade in Schoolcraft.COMMERCIAL-NEWS | ROBERT TOMLINSON - Members of the Schoolcraft Fourth of July Committee gather for a group photo following Monday’s parade.

Schoolcraft holds first Independence Day celebration since 2019

SCHOOLCRAFT — It had been three years since the Village of Schoolcraft held its annual Independence Day parade and celebration, but the turnout at Monday’s edition felt like the event never left.

“It feels wonderful to be back,” Toni Rafferty, president of the Schoolcraft Fourth of July Committee, said. “We are so happy that we were able to do it. We’ve heard very good responses from the community, and they were so excited to have us back doing this again and getting back to what we’d consider a normal life again.”

People from around the area and from far away descended on Schoolcraft Monday for the village’s annual July 4 celebration, one of the biggest in the area. The big highlight was the more than hour-long parade, where thousands of people lined the route on Eliza Street, Grand Street and Clay Street to view the floats, groups and vehicles that made up the parade, with the majority of parade goers wearing red, white and blue. The National Anthem was performed at the beginning of the parade by Sara Taylor.

Monday’s festivities kicked off in the early hours with the Firecracker Five-Miler, which began at 8 a.m. at Schoolcraft High School, as well as the Schoolcraft Lions Club’s pancake breakfast at Schoolcraft Elementary School. The 25th annual car show at Burch Park made its return as well as an ice cream social and barbecue at the Schoolcraft United Methodist Church.

A couple of new events were added to the schedule for this year’s festivities, including a baked goods, crafts and book sale at the Schoolcraft Ladies Library, along with games and activities for kids. Food trucks were also set up in the elementary school parking lots, as well as fire truck rides. The night was capped off with fireworks at 10 p.m.

The turnout for Monday’s celebration was a welcome sight for event organizers, who had not been able to hold a celebration since 2019 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Rafferty said it was “much bigger” than she expected it to be.

“We loved the turnout. We were pleased with how many people came out as well as how many floats and participants we had in the parade,” Rafferty said. “I think it’s going to take a couple years to get it back to where it was, but for a first year back it was amazing.”

She said she wasn’t sure how turnout would be, given the two years they did not hold a celebration.

“With two years off, not knowing if people found other parades to go to last year because we were one of the few that ended up cancelling last year, but we decided it was best to keep our community safe,” Rafferty said. “We were pleased people still remembered us and still loved the Schoolcraft parade and they came back again. We appreciate their support.”

To that, Rafferty briefly addressed the controversial decision to not have a celebration in 2021 due to COVID-19. She said the decision, made early that year, was a joint decision between the Village Council and the committee.

“We looked at several other events that were going on for the Fourth of July that were being cancelled, and there were some that went on. We thought it was the best decision at the time, and we wanted everyone to be safe and healthy because we’re still dealing with effects from COVID,” Rafferty said.

Rafferty said this was the first year for their committee putting on this year’s parade, and that there were many things to take away organizationally with the parade and the overall celebration to make things even better for next year’s festivities.

“I think this was successful and I think we did well,” Rafferty said. “There were a few hiccups, but when it’s your first time doing something, we expected that. There’s some things that we’ve already figured out with this morning that we need to do a little different change, but that’s part of learning. We’ll learn from things we did this year and we’ll do great next year.”

Overall, she said celebrating the anniversary of America’s independence in the village was something fun to do.

“This was wonderful, and I love that we were able to do it on the Fourth of July and not have to change and do it on a different day,” “It makes me happy to celebrate the Fourth in our community on the Fourth.”

Robert Tomlinson can be reached at 279-7488 ext. 22 or robert@threeriversnews.com.

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