The July Fourth Palisades Parade in Northwest D.C. often serves as an unofficial kickoff of the District’s local political campaign season — this year being no exception, with three candidates in next year’s mayor’s race marching the milelong route and a recently declared fourth candidate apparently making a low-profile debut.
The small-town feel of the parade, in which anyone can march simply by showing up before the 11 a.m. start, fosters much of the appeal, D.C. Council member Jack Evans said.
“It really harkens back to the Fourth of July of yesteryear,” the Ward 2 Democrat said after he taped “Jack Evans for Mayor” signs to the sides of his black convertible. “It’s so mom and apple pie, but there’s nothing wrong with that.”
While Mr. Evans’ attendance at the parade — he has participated for the past 22 years — makes him a recognizable figure in the Palisades neighborhood, others have recently adopted the traditional Independence Day celebration as well.
Council member Muriel Bowser, Ward 4 Democrat, said she has attended each year since she was elected to office in 2007.
“I just think it’s a great celebration of our country and our neighborhoods,” said Ms. Bowser, whose bright red dress stood out against the sea of green “Muriel Bowser for Mayor” T-shirts worn by a throng of supporters.
Council member Tommy Wells, Ward 6 Democrat, who hustled to the Palisades after marching in a parade in the Capitol Hill neighborhood he represents, said his first-time attendance at the event last year launched his official bid for mayor. Mr. Wells handed out stickers promoting his mayoral bid with the slogan “Celebrating a livable, walkable Fourth of July.” But he found himself living by the motto after a pick-up truck that would have driven the route alongside him broke down.
“When you’re multimodal it doesn’t slow you down,” said Mr. Wells, decked out in American flag suspenders and a straw hat with an oversized brim.
Wells supporters were able to quickly transfer a set of speakers from the broken truck to a bicycle carriage to ensure that hits including Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the USA” blared as they traversed MacArthur Boulevard on the western edge of the neighborhood.
Absent from the parade, but apparently not from the festivities, was mayoral candidate Reta Jo Lewis, who entered the race just this week. Ms. Lewis, an attorney who most recently worked as Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s special representative for global intergovernmental affairs at the State Department, mingled and talked with parade attendees on the sidelines rather than joining her contenders in the street, a campaign spokesman said.
“She was with friends and walking around talking to people and introducing herself,” spokesman Larry Thomas Decker said. “She’ll be in full force in the coming summer festival events.”
Mayor Vincent C. Gray, who has not said whether he will run for re-election, got prime placement at the front of the parade but played coy about his plans as he walked among the other candidates for his job.
“We’ll see,” Mr. Gray said. “Let them keep going. They’ll be tired by the time I get there.”
In addition to the mayoral candidates, attendees included the District’s congressional representative, Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton; D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson; and D.C. Council members Mary M. Cheh, Ward 3 Democrat; David A. Catania, at-large independent; Anita Bonds, at-large Democrat; and Yvette M. Alexander, Ward 7 Democrat.
While the politicians tossed candy and plastic beaded necklaces, it was the dancers and music that tended to captivate the crowd at the 47th annual event.
“This is the best one,” said Christine Lehman, 43, a lawyer, as she pointed out to her daughter two Chinese dragons that danced down the street with members of a martial arts school. “I always feel sorry for how hot they must be.”
Ms. Lehman’s daughter, 4-year-old Charlotte, stood transfixed as the dragons — manned by two dancers each — bucked and whirled down the street.
“The best reception used to be for the horsemen,” said 72-year-old retiree Mel Hurwitz, who hasn’t missed the well-loved neighborhood tradition since 1971.
Watching the parade with his two grown sons and his grandchildren, Mr. Hurwitz lamented the fact that the politicians now make up a much larger portion of the parade.
“Frequently candidates show up, but once they are elected they forget us,” he said.