FORT WAYNE – They were decked out in red, white and blue. They were on bikes and in strollers, flag-draped kiddie cars and in the arms of their parents and grandparents.
They laughed and sang during Friday’s annual Bicycle Parade and neighborhood block party at California and Delaware avenues, near Lakeside Park.
Some of them marked the third generation to attend the all-day July Fourth event.
I’ve watched my five kids be a part of the parade, and now I’m watching my grandchildren, said Mona Bireley, who has lived with her husband, L.B., at the hub of the event and has been involved since it began 24 years ago.
Bireley’s daughter Tara McLaughlin lives three doors down with her husband, David, and was in charge of organizing this year’s event.
I grew up here, Bireley said, pointing to her parents’ house where neighbors had gathered on the lawn. This has been part of my life for 20 years.
McLaughlin’s two daughters, Keagan, 3, and Morgan, 9, participated in the parade.
It’s the most awesome idea, ever! Morgan said.
After the parade, the children gathered to sing Happy Birthday to the USA and to Tucker, a neighborhood boy who happened to be born on the Fourth of July.
Then it was time for ice pops and breaking open a piñata before a neighborhood fire truck arrived to offer some fun-in-the-sun water-spray games.
Zoe Linn, 14, usually wears skates and rolls her way through the parade path, but this year the toe-stops of her skates were not working, so she walked.
I didn’t want to cause an accident, she said.
The event is always highly anticipated by children and adults alike, the teen said.
The neighborhood is like a family; I love everyone here, Linn said, gesturing toward nearby houses. It’s part of my life.
In the parade’s lead was a curly, blond-haired preschooler wearing sunglasses – the confident driver of a bright, lime green, plastic dune buggy tagged with the license plate: Indiana – Lila Bear.
Later, neighbors gathered in a barricaded block of Delaware Avenue for a potluck picnic, where neighborhood chefs competed for the best meat dish.
Buddy Bireley, 25, won the competition with his recipe for slow-roasted brisket. Bireley may have had an edge: In addition to the event being orchestrated by the Bireley clan, he works at Blue Stack Smokehouse, a restaurant known for brisket and meat dishes.
After a full day of parading, partying and picnicking, families in the tight-knit neighborhood gathered to watch a fireworks display – a perfect end to a perfect day – or as Morgan would say: The most awesome idea ever!