- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 1, 2014

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) - Organizers of the nation’s oldest continuous Fourth of July celebration are watching Friday’s weather forecast and wondering whether a tropical storm making its way up the coast could affect the 229th annual Independence Day festivities in Bristol.

In forecasts Tuesday afternoon, the National Weather Service says showers are likely Friday, and there could be thunderstorms.

Ray Lavey, general chairman of the town’s Fourth of July committee, says he asked three past chairmen and none could remember the celebration or parade being canceled. He says the decision is up to the police chief and town administrator, and could be made as late as Friday morning.

“Any type of a safety issue such as lightning or flooding, it would be canceled,” he said.

Bristol’s parade is one of Rhode Island’s most important summer traditions. The celebration began in 1785 when a Revolutionary War veteran, the Rev. Henry Wight, led patriotic exercises in the town. The parade began in the early 1800s, and town lore has it that it began as a procession of people walking to see the patriotic exercises.

About 100,000 people turn out to see the 2.5-mile parade in a typical year, Lavey said. Just 23,000 people live in Bristol. Three-thousand people participate in the parade, which takes an estimated 90 minutes, he said.

This year’s patriotic exercises are scheduled to begin at 8:30 a.m. and include a speech by Major General Kevin McBride, adjutant general for the Rhode Island National Guard, as well as reading of excerpts of the U.S. Constitution and the pledge of allegiance. The parade is scheduled to start at 10:30 a.m. after the singing of the national anthem and the firing of a cannon.

Among the highlights planned for this year’s parade are four Colonial-style militia groups, six drum corps, 13 marching bands from as far away as Oregon and Minnesota, and Boston Bruin Torey Krug, who is to ride a specially outfitted Zamboni.

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