When it comes to July 4 parades and celebrations, nobody’s got anything on Cheltenham and this area of the Philly suburbs. The top of the line is Glenside’s parade-plus extravaganza now in its 112th year. And over in Cheltenham Village there’s the East Cheltenham Community Council Parade, where Cheltenham Village is celebrating its 325th birthday this year.
Glenside’s is billed as “a big city-styled patriotic celebration in a real Americana, small town setting.” It’s a snapshot that fits. Performers and spectators come to this one from far and wide. The event draws huge crowds, having become the biggest, family-friendly Independence Day celebration in the region.
It’s really a three-tiered event in honor of America’s birthday featuring a morning children’s program and then the big procession at 4 p.m. The culmination is an after-dark fireworks spectacular above Abington High School’s athletic fields. It’s all free and sponsored by the non-profit Greater Glenside Patriotic Association (GGPA), thanks to their hard working volunteers.
Added to this year’s lineup for the East Cheltenham parade are Olaf and Elsa, characters from the wildly popular movie Frozen, along with the 90-member Upper Darby High School Marching Band, a stilt walker, antique cars, and Revolutionary War re-enactors. Plus, there will be fire company vehicles, floats and more. The parade kicks off at 11:30 a.m. at Ashbourne Road and Front Street (Cheltenham Elementary) and runs through Rowland Park, up Ryers Avenue, down Central Avenue and into Tookany Park. The sponsors advise finding a comfortable spot along the parade route for the best viewing. For info. on the Children’s Parade and the 2 p.m. field games, click here.
The Glenside parade, modestly dubbed the “Annual Grand, Glorious, Patriotic Parade,” is among America’s oldest consecutively run July 4th events. Starting in Abington at VFW Post 676 at Jenkintown and Edge Hill Roads., the 1.5-mile route runs east along Jenkintown Road, turns south onto Easton Road through the heart of the Glenside business district, and then moves east on Waverly Road for two blocks and its conclusion at Waverly and Keswick Avenue in Cheltenham.
This year none other than the Philly Phanatic will be a featured marching guest, and he’ll be accompanied by an honor guard of two championship teams from the Glenside Youth Athletic Club, the age 11 and under boys baseball team and the girls softball team age 15 and under.
The parade will have a set of grand marshals from the Abington Township Fire Department in honor of the ATFD for its winning the Commission on Fire Accreditation International award. The ATFD is the sole volunteer department in the commonwealth to have earned the accreditation, according to Bill Hall, the GGPA’s public information chief. Certainly it’s a fitting tribute considering the event began more than a century ago as a firemen’s parade. Each of the five Abington fire companies will be represented by two engines and uniformed personnel.
Back again this year is the popular 300-member contingent of the Bolivian-American heritage group Caporales San Simon from Alexandria, VA, dancing in their colorful dress. In addition, the parade is expected to include the following musical performance groups: the Caesar Rodney Brass Marching Band from Wilmington, DE; the Raiders Drum & Bugle Corps from northern NJ; the Olde Barracks Fifes & Drums of Trenton, NJ; the Marching Cobras from The Bronx; the Rajah Shrine Band from Reading; the Philadelphia Freedom Band; the Fralinger and Hegeman String Bands of Philadelphia Mummers’ fame; Brian Boru Pipes and Drums of King of Prussia; the Timoney Irish Dancers of Glenside; the Square Club Band of Dresher; the Cassidy Dancers, of Glenside; the Ulster Scottish Pipe Band of Bucks County; and the Grand Master Band Organ of Dennis Robinson from Allentown.
The GGPA’s holiday activities will begin at 10 a.m. with the “We Love America Children’s Program” at Renninger Memorial Park, Keswick Avenue and Waverly Road in Glenside (Cheltenham Township).
Then in the evening more than 1,000 shells will be launched in the celebration’s “America the Beautiful Aerial Fireworks Spectacular,” expected to start about 9 p.m. The firing line will be in the Abington Township Maintenance Yard on Florey Lane, east of Easton Rd.
And what does it take to put on this annual spectacle? Including the morning events, the parade and the fireworks, about $55,000 plus a lot of hard work, said Hall. Tax deductible contributions to support the celebration are accepted year-round by the Greater Glenside Patriotic Association at P.O. Box 72, Glenside, PA 19038.
GGPA meetings occur the second Tuesday of each month, excluding August and September, at 7:30 p.m., in the rear conference room of the Weldon Fire Co., Easton Road, north of Keswick Avenue in Abington. Meetings are open to the public.
The July 4 rain date is July 5.