The celebratory scene outside the Old State House on Monday was long-awaited by many Bostonians and newcomers alike.
At an Independence Day event accented by music and confetti, hundreds gathered outside the historic brick building on Washington Street to listen to a reading of the Declaration of Independence. A member of the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company recited the foundational document from the building’s balcony around 10 a.m., continuing a Boston tradition that has taken place since 1776.
Droves of people, visitors and residents alike, came out and formed a crowd that, not long ago, would have caused anyone with COVID-19 concerns to flee.
”It’s awesome; it’s a piece of history,” said Ron Connerly, who came from Kansas, of the reading. ”It’s great to be where it all started,” added Deb Connerly, Ron’s wife.
While the Connerlys said they were excited for festivities throughout the day, they acknowledged that pandemic-related risks were still on their mind.
”This guy was coughing over here, so I was a little worried,” Ron said, “but apart from that, everybody’s vaccinated, and I’ve got a mask.”
His daughter-in-law, Megan Connerly, said this was her fourth time attending the event.
“It’s really nice, especially after COVID and everything, to bring family out because it’s a fun event for the Fourth of July,” Megan said as her daughter played with the surrounding confetti.
Neelkanth Mishra and his family have lived in the Boston suburbs for decades but said they’ve traditionally spent their Fourth of July holidays elsewhere. Now that Mishra’s daughter is living in the city for grad school, the family decided to dedicate three days to spending the July Fourth weekend exploring home for the first time.
”Every year we normally travel to other states. When you’re local to a place, you think, ‘Oh this is ours, we can see this anytime,’ but this time, [my daughter] was here, so why would we go anywhere else?” he said.
Mishra said he’d enjoyed the festivities so far, pointing to the celebratory atmosphere at the Declaration of Independence reading and around the city at large.
”I love the people and the celebration of freedom and everybody enjoying everything; just look at the happiness on their faces,” he said.
Before the reading, Boston’s official Fourth of July parade looped through downtown, with participants including veterans and marchers in Colonial-era garb. Red, white, and blue-clad onlookers cheered from the sidelines, many donning tricorn hats.
Once the parade arrived at the Old State House, the mood grew solemn as onlookers, hands over hearts, recited the Pledge of Allegiance before hearing the Declaration of Independence.
The crowd remained quiet as Boston baritone Dana Whiteside performed “God Bless America.” Moments later, the subdued atmosphere transformed as red, white, and blue confetti erupted, sending the crowd into jubilant cheers amid a band’s performance of “Stars and Stripes Forever.”
This year’s lineup of speakers included Mayor Michelle Wu, who spoke of the Boston’s “being a leading light for the fight for freedom, justice, and equality.” Her speech came days after a group of masked white supremacists marched through the city spewing hate.
Wu later addressed a crowd at an event at Faneuil Hall and spoke of the need for people in Boston and nationwide to treat freedom as an “ongoing mission,” saying that it is “not a thing that we have, but a thing that we do.”
“We need each of you in this fight to build a stronger democracy,” Wu said, encouraging attendees to engage in efforts from getting involved in local elections to throwing neighborhood block parties. “Let us never forget the urgency of the fight for freedom.”
Some attendees of the Declaration of Independence reading later took to social media to share their excitement.
“Wishing everyone a Happy 4th of July from the greatest city in America,” tweeted Ben Edwards, sharing a photo of the confetti after the reading.
Anjali Huynh was a Globe intern in 2022.Follow her on Twitter @anjalihuynh.