by Sue Ann Rybak

There were no F-22s, tanks or fireworks – just a message and a reminder from America’s children that July 4th is about “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.”

Thanks to the Chestnut Hill Bocce Club, which hosted this year’s Fourth of July Parade and Celebration, another generation of kids will remember proudly displaying their floats, wagons, bikes and trikes adorned in red, white and blue at the Water Tower Recreation Center.

Some of this year’s winners included the “U.S.A. Express,” “Betsy Ross is the Boss,” “Go U.S.A.,” “Home of the Brave,” “Stars & Stripes 4Ever” and “Thankful for Our Troops.”

This was the first time 2-year-old Callie Bray participated in the parade. Callie’s mom, Lizzie Charlick Bray, who lives in Chestnut Hill, heard about the parade through a Facebook group to which she belongs. She said someone posted about needing a bike for the parade. Lizzie said she did a quick Google search and spent the next 24 hours working on her daughter’s trike.

Callie’s first parade almost went down in flames, after she fell. Thankfully, one of the children who made the “U.S.A. Express” asked her if she wanted to take a ride on their train. And just like that, it wasn’t long before Callie was on board the freedom train.

Bocce Club member Jay Overcash, one of the coordinators of the event, said the club is honored to celebrate the Fourth of July each year with the community.

“The businesses, sponsors and donations make this event possible,” he said. “Many of our members are veterans, and we all volunteer for the children.”

Chestnut Hill resident Catherine Browne, who grew up in Wyndmoor, has been coming to the parade since she was a little girl. As a child, she attended Our Mother of Consolation School. She said, “participating in the parade is a family tradition.”

Warwick resident Mary Delaney, who grew up in Chestnut Hill, stood next to her grandchildren as they sat on the bleachers waiting for the magic show to begin. She said her favorite thing about coming to the parade is seeing people she hasn’t seen in a long time. Delaney was happy she got to reconnect with an old classmate, Miriam Hohnleitner from OMC. Delaney’s son, Bill, of Horsham, 38, was also there with his family. Besides seeing family and friends, Bill said his favorite thing about the Fourth of July celebration this year was being “one of the judges at the races.”

Joseph McGoldrick, Hohnleitner’s husband, said his father used to come to the Fourth of July celebration when he was growing up. (The annual tradition was started 104 years ago by the Chestnut Hill and Mt. Airy Business Men’s Association, which successfully ran the event at the Water Tower Recreation Center until the Bocce Club took over in 1980.)

Besides the parade, the celebration includes youth races, a community lunch, face painting and a live magic show. Hohnleitner’s daughter, Rosemary Miller of Moorestown, New Jersey, attended the parade with her children Matthew, 13, Molly, 11, Maggie, 7, and Monica, 5.

For many Hillers, the annual Fourth of July Parade and Celebration is a favorite childhood memory they can never forget. Hohnleitner recalled her mother making sandwiches before the event began on the Fourth of July.

“I remember eating bologna sandwiches with butter as a kid – that was before they gave out hot dogs,” she said. “And we got milk – yuck! – and a Tastykake. I can taste it like it was yesterday.”

Someone listening added, “Hey, I remember those bologna sandwiches with butter!”

Sue Ann Rybak can be reached at sueann@chestnuthilllocal.com or 215- 248-8804.

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