Path for National Independence Day Parade runs through Tempe

WASHINGTON – Arizona resident John Wiscombe has seen a lot in 23 years helping to organize the National Independence Day Parade down Constitution Avenue in the heart of Washington, D.C.

But his favorite performance in all that time may have been the Montana State Prison Guard Band a few years back, he said.

“I’ve never heard of such a thing – a state prison guard band – and they were very interesting,” said Wiscombe, who was back in Washington Monday to help get the 2016 parade rolling.

Wiscombe works with Diversified Events, one of two Tempe-based companies, along with Music Celebrations, that have been hosting the parade since 1994.

“We do other similar events here in Washington. We do the national Memorial Day parade. We do a national Memorial Day concert in the Kennedy Center, every Memorial Day weekend,” Wiscombe said.

The July Fourth parade steps off from the foot of Capitol Hill and extends for a mile down Constitution Avenue, passing museums before ending up near the Washington Monument and the White House.

Crowds of camera-toting tourists, many bedecked in flag-themed gear, lined the parade route several people deep, waving and clapping as the parade rolled past.

The parade features the usual assortment of marching bands and pompons, floats and color guards, singers and beauty queens waving to the crowds. There was no one from Arizona participating this year, but that’s not always the case.

“The Navajo Nation Marching Band was here several years ago,” Wiscombe said. “We’ve had bands from, I want to say, Nogales, Scottsdale, Glendale in the parade before.”

“I think the Navajo Band was also a favorite of mine because they were from my state and representing the Navajo Nation here,” he said.

– Cronkite News video by Keshia Butts

Despite overcast skies and occasional rain Monday, people from all over the country were still on hand to see this year’s parade.

Darshita Patel said she came with her family “today from Pennsylvania just to see Washington, D.C., to see the White House, to see the monuments.”

Others came out specifically to see the performers in the parade.

“My nephew is actually the person who opened the parade signing ‘God Bless America’ and then he performed a second song, so I was able to come and participate,” said Patricia Hicks, who was coming from Virginia.

The parade is easily overshadowed by the thousands who crowd the National Mall later in the day for the Fourth of July concert and fireworks show, which is broadcast nationally. But Wiscombe thinks the parade really helps bring everyone together from all over the country.

“This represents really hometown America. Bands come from Iowa, from Nebraska, from Minnesota, from California from all over,” he said. “It’s a small slice of what America is, here on Constitution Avenue.”