Like a giant, living American flag, hundreds of people decked out in their best red, white, and blue surrounded Boston’s Old State House on Thursday morning for patriotic observances and celebration.
Shortly after 10 a.m., the Captain Commanding Nicholas Schiarizzi of the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company recited the Declaration of Independence from the Old State House balcony, an annual tradition since 1776.
“It is my great honor to deliver the Declaration of Independence to the people of Boston as it has been done every year by the captain of this company for 243 years at this very location,” Schiarizzi said to the throngs assembled on the street.
The solemn moment — the highlight of a morning parade that began at City Hall — brought tears to some observers’ eyes.
“I’ve been crying — I’m so emotional about this kind of thing,” said Tina Mathews, a Californian visiting New England with her family for Independence Day. “We’re so proud of our country.”
Her husband, Cody, wore a Declaration of Independence T-shirt and a tricorn hat popular during the Colonial era, and their 3-year-old daughter, Alani, displayed Benjamin Franklin’s “Join or Die” political cartoon on her shirt.
The family has been touring various New England landmarks, like the sites of the battles of Lexington and Concord, but Mathews said the goal was always to spend Fourth of July in Boston, “the most patriotic city in America.”
Earlier, onlookers watched as the parade, which included members of the Billerica Colonial Minute Men and London’s Honourable Artillery Company, made its way from City Hall to the Granary Burying Ground.
“We marched because some of our people came over and started the Ancient Artillery Company,” said David Griffith, of London. “We come every year, and it’s terrific.”
It was scheduled to end at noon, at the Paul Revere Mall, according to the Greater Boston Convention and Visitors Bureau.
“The history is something that we wanted to see. That’s the reason we came out here,” said Nancy Lee of Williamsburg, Mo. “Boston is the place to be [on July 4] because it all started here.”
Standing in the back of the crowd on one side of the State House, Alyson Parenteau said she missed last year’s parade because it was “incredibly hot” and she was “super pregnant.” But with 10-month-old Franklyn in a baby carrier this time around, the new mother decided to attend.
“For her first Fourth of July, it only seemed appropriate to go down here,” Parenteau said.
Parenteau, whose physician husband was onboard the USS Constitution for its annual Fourth of July turn around in Boston Harbor, said her favorite part of the morning’s ceremony was the Pledge of Allegiance.
“As a teacher, we gave up doing the Pledge of Allegiance a while ago in the schools,” she said. “But it was kind of special to hear everybody gathered at this place, doing the Pledge. That was really sweet.”
After listening to Dana Whiteside sing “God Bless America,” the hundreds of attendees, packed into the closed-off intersection of Congress and State streets downtown, stood silently as the Declaration was read.
Lawrence Barrett of Brighton brought his family to the ceremony to teach them about American history.
“It’s really important that my kids see that this matters to us because we can get really caught up in the politics of the day and in really tiny problems,” he said. “We can forget the overarching principles — things like freedom, independence, individual rights — and it’s good to step back every once in awhile and remember those,” he said.