Hollyhock Parade a community, family tradition

The 81st annual Hollyhock Lane Parade. (July 4, 2015)

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The 81st annual Hollyhock Lane Parade on Grand Rapids’ southeast side brought together both families and the community this Independence Day.

The parade is the longest continuously running Fourth of July parade in the state. President Gerald R. Ford marched in it in 1969 when he was still serving in Congress.

It has become a tradition not only for the people who march in it, but also for those who watch it every year.

“It’s almost like you’re having a big, big birthday and everybody for the community comes,” said Xianni Pearson, age 8. “It’s amazing! It’s like a big block party.”

Xianni was there with generations of her family, including her grandmother Shirley Cohen.

“We’ve been coming every year since 1973,” said Cohen. “This is wonderful. Every year it gets huge! It’s just- it has grown. We come from a time to maybe 10-, 15-minute parade to where they shot it over to a half an hour to an hour.”

Cohen said her mother first took her to the iconic Grand Rapids parade when she was 13 years old.

“I brought my children and now my children are bringing my grandchildren, so it’s a tradition,” Cohen said. “As long as it’s here, we’re going to keep coming.”

>>Photos: Fourth of July parades in West Michigan

Many politicians marched in the parade this year. Several candidates for mayor and city commission marched alongside elected officials like current Mayor George Heartwell and U.S. Rep. Justin Amash.

Second Ward City Commissioner Rosalynn Bliss marched with a small army of supporters for her mayoral bid.

“This is one of the best traditions in our city. This is a great parade. [It] brings everyone together in our community to celebrate this important day,” Bliss said.

And while the politicians and floats may have changed over the years, the sentiment hasn’t.

“This is what it’s all about,” Cohen said. “It’s tradition. Family, community, everybody gathering and having a good time, and it’s just wonderful. Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful, beautiful! I’m excited! I like it! I’m worse than the kids.”

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