The park district had a hands-on learning booth for kids at the Americana Festival. Thousands attended the Centerville Washington Township Americana Festival, Thursday, a local 4th of July tradition. KATIE WEDELL/STAFF

Races, parades and history: How the Miami Valley celebrated Independence Day

The Oregon District’s Fourth of July parade, a neighborhood tradition, was one of dozens of Independence Day celebrations big and small across the Miami Valley on Thursday.

Jeff and Leslie Gonya’s three dogs, Maizey, Lance and Bonnie, thought they were the stars. They were followed by kids’ bikes decked out with red, white and blue streamers and an appearance by Pedal Wagon Dayton. Events ended with hot dogs and ice cream in the park.

Fairborn held its annual parade in the morning, an important tradition for the military town.

“With our proximity to Wright-Patt, the number of airmen that live or have lived here, it’s a natural fit and we should be patriotic. I think we do a good job at that,” said Rob Anderson, who attended the event.

In the south suburbs thousands packed Main Street for the 46th annual Centerville-Washington Township Americana Festival.

This year’s theme was “Honoring those who protect and serve our community,” and the parade featured three grand marshals, retired Police Chief Bruce Robertson, retired Fire Chief Bill Gaul and retired Sheriff’s Captain Jeff Papanek.

Some got an early jump on the day by running the 5K. When they reached the end, Summer Tyson greeted them with an array of lemonade, cookies, muffins and cinnamon rolls.

It’s something the girl has done for the past five years.

“The first thing people think or say like… how much is everything?” she said. “I’m like, oh, it’s nothing, you can get it and you don’t have to pay… it’s fun.”

A much longer-running Americana tradition continued with Bob Koogler delivering the Gettysburg address dressed as President Abraham Lincoln, something he has done for 20 years.

“They should learn about it and listen to what he said,” Koogler told WHIO-TV.

Each family seems to have its own Americana Festival traditions. For David and Elizabeth Cornell of Fairborn, it’s finding their favorite local art vendors and looking for new pieces to take home.

“We try to hit all the festivals in the area,” Elizabeth Cornell said. “We like to come and get unique art and support local artists.”

The Americana Festival typically features more than 300 vendor booths to choose from with everything from homemade wooden toys to henna tattoos, Ohio State Buckeyes gear to Native American craft goods.

“It demonstrates how diverse we are,” said Jimmy Finnigan whose daughter Maria had quickly found a handmade puppet toy to play with. “This festival just allows everybody to get together.”

The patriotic fun isn’t over, as many communities have events planned through the weekend.

Xenia’s fireworks festival will be held today from 5 to 10:30 p.m. at Shawnee Park.

Austin Landing’s two-day celebration is happening today and Saturday. A food truck rally and concert by Arctic Clam and The Menus, plus fireworks, will be held today. On Saturday, there will be a food truck rally and concert by 33 People and Bruce in the USA. Tickets are $10 for each day and the event runs from 6 to 11 p.m. Friday and 6 to 10:30 p.m. Saturday.

The Oregon District Business Association will hold its fourth annual Independence District Day from noon to 6 p.m. Saturday.

And the Mall at Fairfield Commons will host its 3rd annual Red, White and Brew event from 6 to 10 p.m. Saturday outside the main entrance to the mall near Bravo!

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