1993 Fourth of July Celebration Report

1993 Two Hundred Seventeenth Anniversary of American Independence

Chief Marshal Tom Byrnes Hospitalized 
Committee Members Face Fines 
Fireworks Over Harbor
Focus on Floats 
Parade on Fifth 

Known as the “Father of the East Bay Bike Path,” Thomas H. Byrnes, Jr., was introduced to the Committee by Chairman Roger Dubord, Jr., on Wednesday, April 14. As ceremonial head of activities for the Bristol Fourth of July Celebration, the title carries with it a hectic itinerary of official duties.

Byrnes, 74, served as a State Representative from 1978 to 1982 and as Town Administrator from 1982 to 1984. A 1937 graduate of Colt Memorial High School, he served in the US Army during World War II, and was later employed as a postal worker for 30 years, retiring in 1978. Joan Roth at the Past Chief Marshals’ and Chairmen’s Association’s annual meeting presented his badge of office.

The Chief Marshal and his wife Constance have 6 children and on Wednesday, April 21, they were all named staff aids to the Chief Marshal. Eldest son US Army Attaché Col. Michael T. Byrnes, 47, was named Chief of Staff.

Byrnes Hospitalized
On June 24, the town was shocked to learn that the Chief Marshal had been rushed to Rhode Island Hospital with an apparent heart attack that occurred about 8 a.m., the previous day.

Chairman Dubord said he heard optimistic reports on Byrnes’ condition. He said he hoped Byrnes would be able to resume his Chief Marshal's duties, but he added, “The very first priority is that he take care of his own health right now. We'll be glad to have him back when he's ready.”

The Chief Marshal was unable to attend the Bristol Yacht Club reception on June 25; his Chief of Staff represented him. During the reception ceremonies, in the absence of Chief Marshal, his son, Col. Byrnes made a presentation of a hand carved walking stick intended for his father to his mother Constance.

Byrnes eventually carried out most of his duties including a short welcoming speech at Patriotic Exercises. His wife joined him in the parade; they rode in a 1924 Packard, which conked out because of a bad fuel pump while passing the Lobster Pot Restaurant on Hope Street.

Committee Members Face Fines
Eleven local officials including seven Fourth of July Committee members were faced with possible fines of up to $200 for not filing financial disclosure statements to the Rhode Island Ethics Commission the members: Dale Bernard, Douglas C. Bernard, Joseph Perry, Domenic Raiola, Paula Ramos, Paula Richard, and Claudia Silvia.

We can safely assume the named offenders made the required disclosure statements, because no further reports on this subject appeared in the local press.

Focus on Floats
Float Subcommittee chair Donna St.Angelo and her crew of volunteers must ensure that floats adhere to the parade’s patriotic theme. For the past several years the Committee has had to deal with some 40 entries.

Anyone is welcome to enter a float in the parade, as long as it is tasteful and has a patriotic American theme. If a float doesn’t focus on American independence or related subjects, St.Angelo advised them simply “…to rethink their theme. After they do, they are usually accepted,” she said.

Past questionable subject matter for parade floats include the cast from the “Rocky Horror Picture Show.” One of the cast members portrayed a transvestite. St.Angelo said when the Rocky Horror float showed up, this year, at the muster area if they were dressed inappropriately, they would be told to wear shirts and pants to cover the costumes.

Another negative that turned positive in 1993 was when the Gay and Lesbian Alliance demanded to march in the parade amid controversy and much publicity. The float Committee suggested they ride on a float instead of marching. The float though not roundly accepted by the majority of parade viewers, won a third place prize on of the award categories.

Exercises at Colt Memorial
Bristol High School Salutatorian Kristen Trout read excerpts from the Declaration of Independence; Cindy Belmore sang the National Anthem.

Governor Bruce Sundlun spoke briefly. “Without your freedom, you’re really a little less than human,” he said. He recalled being hidden in France for nearly a year during World War II when the plane he piloted was shot down. He related how precious he has held freedom ever since.

The theme of Principal Speaker, Bryant College Economics Professor, William B. Sweeney, was how high school students need God in order to form a good set of values. He recalled our forefathers and how this country was formed.

Parade on Fifth

It was one of the finest parades in decades and the huge crowd was on its best behavior. Though a hot day, it was the best parade weather enjoyed in Bristol for a long time. The exuberant crowd, which one state sheriff described as the biggest he has seen in a decade, lined the parade route 12 deep in some places to watch the annual spectacle unfold.

The heat, traffic, and number of emergency calls to Safe Way Auto Body made the day long and busy for tow truck operator Joe Coelho, Jr. On Monday Coelho’s trucks towed 15 cars before the start of the parade.

Four cars were disabled in accidents; the rest were towed for parking illegally along the parade route. About half the cars were from out of state, including one with Michigan plates.

From Barney the purple dinosaur, to radio personality Salty Brine, to Providence Mayor Buddy Cianci, and Governor Bruce Sundlun and his recently acknowledged out of wedlock daughter Kara Hewes, Bristol’s 208th celebration was vintage Rhode Island.

The litmus of the crowd’s good behavior and tolerance was when 30 members of the Rhode Island Alliance for Lesbian and Gay Civil Rights appeared aboard a float celebrating the Independent Man[1] rolled over Silver Creek, past the Topside Bar, where rowdy spectators last year had booed and tossed eggs at the Alliance’s float. This year the ride went smoothly and the float received cheers from spectators where the most boisterous onlookers tend to gather.

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