A celebration of freedom: Moorestown’s 4th of July parade honors ‘Lady Liberty’

The parade kicks off at noon on the 4th of July, and the process will make its way down Main Street.

In 2010, a committee formed around a simple goal — bringing a 4th of July celebration to Moorestown. The holiday takes a year’s worth of planning and fundraising, but for Vietnam veterans Dave Schill, president of the Moorestown 4th of July Committee, and Gene Clark, vice president, the parade has a deeper meaning.

“I served in the military and celebrating our freedom is very important to me,” Schill said.

Each year’s parade is organized around a theme. Schill said 2018 seems to be the year of the woman, and so, fittingly, the theme is “Lady Liberty.”

Schill said prior to 2011, he often heard from residents who wondered why there wasn’t a local 4th of July celebration, so he took it upon himself to assemble a committee dedicated to organizing one. When the committee was formed in 2010, it didn’t have any funding, so it reached out to the Moorestown Business Association to ask if that group would take it on as a subcomponent of the association. With the MBA’s help, the committee put on its first parade in 2011.

The following year, it parted ways with the MBA and struck out on its own to do the fundraising. Schill said they budget $10,000 for the parade expenses each year, which they raise through donations from businesses and residents.The celebration has since become an annual tradition in town with veterans, civic organizations, community groups and residents coming together to parade down Main Street.

Hundreds of residents line the parade route each year, and he’s been informed by local merchants the local eateries see a major uptick in business. He said prior to 2011, Moorestown was quiet on the 4th of July, but now, the parade draws a huge crowd to Main Street.

In the weeks leading up to the parade, the committee hosts a yearly “Freedom Lecture” at the library where it invites a speaker to discuss facets of the nation’s founding. The committee also sponsors a poster contest calling for elementary students residing in Moorestown or attending a Moorestown school to draw something related to the parade’s theme. The winners get to ride in the parade as special guests.

As commander of American Legion William H. Snyder Post 42, Clark said both he and Schill thought it would be a great idea to invite local veterans to ride in the parade. So, each year, they send out a notice inviting veterans from Moorestown and the surrounding communities to participate. Last year, approximately 50 veterans filled the truck they had donated. Schill said more and more join each year as more veterans learn about their open invitation.

Each year, a color guard opens the festivities. The Moorestown Citizen of the Year is featured in the parade, and the committee also reaches out to all of Moorestown’s civic organizations to participate. Groups like Save The Environment of Moorestown, MoorArts, Moorestown Theater Company, the Historical Society of Moorestown and more all join in on the march down Main.

Anyone is welcome to participate — though Schill said they do encourage those interested in participating to register ahead of time. He said organizing the parade’s lineup is a lot like putting on a play ensuring that similar acts are back-to-back and that the parade flows smoothly.

The committee closes out the parade on the “Deuce and a Half” cargo truck. For the first time last year, they passed around buckets during the parade as a means of raising money toward the yearly $10,000 goal and raised approximately $850.

Schill said he initially resisted the idea of collecting money at the parade, but with funds getting tighter every year, he agreed to give it a try. He said he was amazed by residents’ generosity. The committee fundraises year-round, and Schill said every dime counts.

“If every family in town sent us $10, we could put on a heck of a parade,” Schill said.

The parade kicks off at noon on the 4th of July, and the process will make its way down Main Street. The lineup will assemble at the intersection of Central and Chester avenues at 11:30 a.m. To donate to the parade or to register to walk in it, visit http://moorestown4thjuly.org.