The 72th Annual Watts-Hillandale Fourth of July parade and Celebration will take place Sunday, July 4th, 2021, at 10 a.m., at Oval Drive Park, 2200 W. Club Boulevard, Durham.
This is Durham’s oldest Fourth of July celebration. Learn about other 4th of July celebrations in the Triangle.
The following information is provided by by the Watts Hospital-Hillandale Neighborhood Association:
The 72nd Annual Watts –Hillandale Fourth of July Parade! Oval Park, at the corner of West Club Blvd. and Oakland Avenue, Sunday, July 4, at ten o’clock in the morning. The full, complete, and traditional Watts –Hillandale Fourth of July Parade is back.
We hope you will join us. Last year, because of COVID, we pared the event back to a very limited and very socially-distanced event. A small group wearing masks marched with flags flying – just to keep the tradition unbroken.
But this year, with COVID restrictions substantially reduced, we are planning the full event and people are looking forward to it! Although not officially required, we ask that everyone wear a mask.
It‘s the oldest public Independence Day celebration in Durham. It has been written about in national magazines and it is the model for similar events all over the country.
It’s the Watts Hospital-Hillandale Neighborhood July 4 Parade and Celebration. This will be its 72nd year without interruption. What began as a neighborhood affair has become an event for the whole community. Hundreds turn out from the neighborhood, all over town, and from all around the country. Everyone is welcome!
Preparations begin at around 8 on the morning of the Fourth. To many, this is the best part. Volunteers gather in Oval Park. They festoon the playground with hundreds of U.S. flags and flags from every state and nation. Teams rush from tree to tree with ladders and clothesline to get the flags up in time for the parade.
The result is magnificent. Some of the flags are whoppers – as long as 18 feet! Some of them are real heirlooms. One giant antique has 45 stars, the number of states in the union when the Watts-Hillandale neighborhood was founded more than a century ago.
Another has a giant “V” for victory at the end World War II. Yet another served as pall for a soldier killed during the First World War. By 9:50, the police escort has arrived and the firetruck that will lead the parade is in position. The color guard, usually a group of elected officials and local kids drafted on the spot, move to the front.
This year, Mayor Steve Schewel, a Club Boulevard resident, will lead the parade. The people, hundreds of them, assemble along Oakland Avenue. They have dressed for the occasion. Everyone is in red, white, and blue. There are one or two Uncle Sams. Trikes, wagons, strollers are decked out in crepe paper. There is a pretty convincing chicken-wire-and-tissue-paper Statue of Liberty.
And more flags. Lots of flags. When everybody is ready, a ring of the cow bell and a brief blast of the fire engine’s siren give the signal to march the parade begins. Down Club it goes to Alabama. Then along Alabama to Woodrow and from there, back to the park.
Neighbors line the streets and cheer! Back in the park, the crowd gathers around the flagpole while a brand new U. S. Flag is run up to the top. Everyone recites the Pledge of Allegiance – usually led by a visiting dignitary. After that, the O.K. Chorale leads the marchers in song – starting with their stirring a cappella rendition of ‘The Star-Spangled Banner.’ The chorale, a group of neighbors and their talented friends from all over town has led the singing for years now.
When they take their places, the boisterous crowd quiets to a hush to hear the beautiful harmony. Finally, the event ends with an ice-cold Coke served in the nostalgic little glass bottles. Everyone is home in time for a cookout, siesta, the Festival for the Eno, or fireworks downtown.
More 4th of July Events in the Triangle
Read about all the July 4th fireworks, celebrations and parades in the Triangle. Or look at a quick list here: