The sisters behind a patriotic tradition in Southold

07/03/2016 9:00 AM |

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Every Fourth of July, more than a thousand people line the streets of Southold, carrying balloons and small American flags as they celebrate the country’s anniversary. 

Crowds have gathered to watch the parade, which features horses, decorated bikes, antique cars and themed floats, for the past 18 years. And they will do so again on Monday, July 4, thanks to the continuous efforts of sisters Carol Scott and Joan Tyrer.

“No matter what people do on the Fourth, their day always starts with the parade,” Ms. Tyrer said.

Ms. Tyrer said she developed the idea for the event after a man stopped her one summer to ask what the town was doing to celebrate the holiday. “Not much,” she replied.

So she began talking to Ms. Scott, and the two eventually decided to spearhead a patriotic parade for the town they’ve lived in for more than 50 years. In fact, the sisters have businesses located next door to each other on Main Road — Ms. Scott owns Bath & Linens of Southold and Ms. Tyrer owns Joan Tyrer Realty.

“It was a very small hometown hokey parade,” Ms. Scott said of the inaugural 1997 event.

While the parade has grown substantially since then, Ms. Scott said it has retained its focus on community. During the procession, community members — mostly children — wear costumes made by Ms. Scott or Ms. Tyrer or donated by dedicated parade enthusiasts. This year, Ms. Tyrer said, there will be floats featuring Thomas Jefferson and the Statue of Liberty.

A picture of a Thomas Jefferson float from a previous parade. The themed float will make an appearance in Monday's festivities. (Credit: Nicole Smith)

A picture of a Thomas Jefferson float from a previous parade. The themed float will make an appearance in Monday’s festivities. (Credit: Nicole Smith)

Additionally, youngsters adorn their bikes with red, white and blue decorations, horses march down Main Road and car enthusiasts drive antique models. Local ROTC groups, historical societies, baseball teams and Boy and Girl Scouts troops also participate.

The parade, which lasts around 30 minutes and ends with a barbecue, is funded almost entirely by donations from residents. The sisters set up donation boxes at Southold Pharmacy and the Village Liquor Store beforehand.

During the event, volunteers pass out balloons and flags to participants. They also carry buckets seeking donations for the following year’s celebration. The parade begins at the intersection of Main Road and Hobart Avenue each year and proceeds to the American Legion Hall.

“It’s the community’s doing,” Ms. Scott said. “The cash comes from the community through donations. The town helps, too.”

A few years after the parade began, the Southold Town Board approved Ms. Scott and Ms. Tyrer’s idea to hang American flags throughout Southold between South Harbor Road and Bay Home Road from May to October. In total, 120 flags hang from telephone poles throughout Southold during warm-weather months.

Every year, the sisters spend weeks examining each flag to make sure it’s presentable enough to be flown. This means they can’t be ripped or fading. This year, 75 flags were replaced. On average, they need to be replaced every two years, Ms. Tyrer said.

“People love the flags,” she said. “They take the flags very personally. I think they’re very proud to have these flags hanging in their town.”

Top Photo Caption: Sisters Carol Scott (left) and Joan Tyrer have organized the annual Fourth of July parade in Southold for nearly two decades, and will do so again on Monday. (Credit: Nicole Smith)

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