Independence day is nearly upon us, and all of the Cape Ann cities and towns - as well as the region beyond - are packed full of July 4th activities for families. From parades, to fireworks, to culinary displays, there’s a lot to do on the North Shore!
(Fishtown Horribles, Photo Courtesy Good Morning Gloucester)
In Gloucester, Independence day celebrations start the night before, with the annual Fishtown Horribles Parade, which begins at 6:00 PM.
The parade, which started in the 1920’s in Riverdale and moved downtown to a much larger audience in the mid-1960’s, features many marching bands, as well as dozens of children in homemade costumes known as the “horribles”.
The parade averages 50 floats from local businesses, community groups, and individuals who just want to have a fun time and show off their creative style! Fire trucks and police vehicles also participate and toss candy from the trucks, to the delight of young children.
Horrible Costume, photo courtesy Good Morning Gloucester
The parade’s cost is funded by local fundraisers including a yearly Jalapenos fundraising night, local businesses’ participation, and the parade itself - every year, several volunteers walking the parade route carry buckets for small donations for the parade, which covers the liability insurance, the cost of the website and other administrative expenses, as well as paying the bands that play in the parade. Make sure you have a few dollars in your pocket to add to the buckets to ensure many more years of this wonderful parade!
There are sidewalk and food vendors set up along the parade route, which begins at Gloucester High School, turns right onto Centennial, left onto Stacy Boulevard by the Man at the Wheel statue, then hooks right down Rogers St, where it runs for a long stretch past many local bars and businesses.
It turns left in front of the Rose Baker Senior Center, left onto Main Street, then right onto Pleasant. The parade then turns right onto Railroad, past Shaws and the Rhumbline, right on Washington, and then a left onto Centennial to loop back to the High School. This parade can often last two hours or longer, and effectively cuts downtown off from any through traffic, so be sure to account for heavy traffic downtown that evening. Also, keep in mind that many people put chairs out the night before and day of the parade, so don’t wait until the last minute or you’ll be left without a prime parade watching spot!
After the conclusion of the parade, there is a bandstand on the Boulevard with live music from both the renowned Cape Ann Big Band and local ska favorites the Runaround Sound, as well as a fireworks display at 9:30 PM with a live countdown from the crowd at the Boulevard. The fireworks show, which takes place in the inner harbor, can be viewed from not only Stacy Boulevard and Stage Fort Park but also Rocky Neck, Niles Beach, the Fort and other locations throughout the city such as Governor’s Park on Beacon Street. The new Beauport Hotel will also have a prime view of the fireworks show, as well as those who launch their boats in the evening to take advantage of the beautiful display.
Rockport has several July 4th activities as well, and many residents of Cape Ann are known to attend both celebrations across two days.
At 6PM, the Rockport Fireman's Parade takes place downtown, with concert on Back Beach by the Rockport Legion Band taking place at 8. But don't leave after the show- the annual bonfire starts in the same spot around 9 PM!
Each year, members of the Rockport Firemen's Association, who have long been the organizers of the bonfire as well as the parade, construct a tower made of shipping pallets on Back Beach that measures 20 or more feet in height. An outhouse or shack, usually donated by a local family who no longer needed it, adorns the top of the pile, and has in the past been artistically decorated. Sometimes, the “topper” varies, such as in 2008, when a wooden train celebrating Twin Lights was placed on top instead of a shed. This tradition dates back to the 1950s, when the Association’s builders would spend multiple days moving railroad ties between the Rockport train station to Back Beach to create the bonfire structure, which would last for several days, due to the thick slabs of wood. These days, the bonfires last all night, and the next morning are still a pile of molten embers you can roast marshmallows on.
(Photo courtesy of Vintage Rockport)
In years past, Bonfire T-shirts have been sold at the event to raise money for the Fireman’s Association, to continue the event. The fire department pays close attention to the blaze, and they do a fantastic job every year of holding a safe event!
Down in nearby Manchester by the Sea, start the holiday off on July 3rd with a free holiday concert on Singing Beach. The concert will run from 7:15 to 9:15, so pack your beach gear and cooler and enjoy the evening! After the concert’s conclusion, make sure to stay for the fireworks show, which is launched from a barge just off of the beach! On the Fourth, Manchester by the Sea also holds a celebration parade starting at 10:00 AM. The Independence Day Parade is a local tradition made to honor small-town America, with antique cars, homemade floats, and marching bands, and is meant to inspire patriotism and pride in our country. The parade begins at at Manchester/Essex High School and winds down Lincoln Street, Vine Street, School Street, Pleasant Street, Pine Street, Central Street, Union Street, and Norwood Avenue, and then ends at Coach Field Playground.
Also, don’t forget one of the more unique events of July 4th, the Chebacco Boat Parade in Essex! For the past four years, The Chebacco Lake and Watershed Association has sponsored its annual Fourth of July Boat Parade which begins at 1 p.m. Thursday, July 4th. All the boats, that decorate with either patriotic or other, more creative and funny gear, meet near the Centennial Grove beach From there, the boats proceed around the lake counterclockwise. This means the parade can be viewed from anywhere along the shoreline, so it’s easy even if there’s a crowd! No pre-registration is required for those taking part — just show up. A prize is given to every boat who participates, as well as prizes for most creative, and most patriotic, boats and costumes.
Schedule of Events
6:00 PM - Horribles Parade
7:00 PM - Concert on Stacy Boulevard
9:30 PM - Fireworks Show in Harbor
10:00 PM - Laser Light Show and Dancing
Manchester By The Sea
7:00 PM - Concert on Singing Beach
9:15 PM - Fireworks on Singing Beach
8:00 AM - Horribles Parade
9:00 PM - Fireworks, West Beach
1:00 PM - Chebacco Lake Boat Parade
6:00 PM - Fireman's Parade
8:00 PM - Legion Band Concert on Back Beach
9:00 PM - Bonfire on Back Beach