Volunteers Make a Difference: Celebrate River Hill’s 20th Annual Independence Day Parade

On this 20th Anniversary of River Hill’s Annual Independence Day Parade, we want to point out that “Volunteers Make a Difference.” After all, it was a volunteer that got this annual tradition started! In December 1999, River Hill resident Barbara Wertman, came to a Village Board meeting to ask if the River Hill Community Association (RHCA) would like to have an Independence Day Parade, and if they did—she’d volunteer to make it happen. That was twenty years ago, when the Village of River Hill was still a rather fledgling village, with residents only having begun moving into their newly constructed homes during 1992.

When Barbara first pitched the idea to the RHCA Board of Directors, there were words of support and approval. Having attended the meeting just to speak during the Resident Speakout portion of the evening, Barbara said, “They didn’t know of my offer in advance. I think they were probably caught by surprise, but they supported the idea. My primary memory of the evening was walking out and thinking, ‘Now, I’ve done it; I’m committed.’ I’d been thinking about this volunteer work with the parade for 2-3 years, and I knew that if I volunteered it was a “forever” thing, not just one year, but for as long as the community wanted it. (And, as long as Nancy, the Village Manager at the time, didn’t fire me!).”

Always working closely with the Village Manager, Barbara set about putting together a parade. She carefully considered options for where to begin and end the parade. She spoke with the Clarksville 5th District Volunteer Fire Department to ask if they’d like to team with the RHCA and host the post-parade gathering in their facility. She created the registration process for organizations wanting to be part of the parade and spoke with local community neighborhoods and businesses to gather their support. It was Barbara that brought the concept of the Precision Lawnchair Marching Dads to River Hill – something she learned from a friend in the Chicago area. Her cul-de-sac and immediate neighborhood formed the core of “The Dads,” which included neighbor KJ Reynolds who lead the group for five years and created the movement with the lawnchairs, the voice cadence drills, etc. She then worked with the RHCA to advertise the fact that River Hill would have a parade in the year 2000 along Great Star Drive. During that first year, Barbara did almost all of the legwork required to put together a parade, but in subsequent years the RHCA staff stepped forward to take over most of the administrative tasks such as handling registration details, obtaining a police permit for the road closure and working with the fire department to coordinate the reception for all of the parade participants once it was over. Every year, for the past twenty years, however, it has been Barbara that stages the parade by creating the parade lineup and instructions for all the groups involved. Along with her husband Chris, she is at Pointers Run Elementary School/Clarksville Middle School at dawn each year on July 4 putting out the parade lineup numbered signs, the traffic control signs, and cloth skirts on the RHCA floats. Before the official signal for the parade to get under way, Barbara is out there in the parking lot at the school, clipboard in hand, with her sun hat on, addressing questions, issues, directing traffic, and talking with the Police and Fire Department leads to get the parade started on time.

In addition to wanting to create a special event in River Hill to bring people together to celebrate Independence Day, Barbara says, “My personal philosophy is to contribute to each organization I’m part of – community, cul-de-sac neighborhood, tennis, church, etc. There is an underlying story that preceded my volunteer statement for the parade, and that led to, ‘Who are we as Americans?’, which led me to thinking that our young community might benefit from an Independence Day Parade. Not knowing if such a concept of a parade was old fashioned, I went to see the Longfellow Parade before I volunteered, and I saw that the community support of patriotism was alive and well in Longfellow. The River Hill parade has always been focused on developing patriotic spirit within our children and teaching them history.” Surely that effort has been accomplished, and the tradition carries on thanks to the many volunteers and participants, including our fearless leader and parade founder, Barbara Wertman.

This year’s parade, like all those that preceded it, will be along Great Star Drive beginning at the Guilford Road intersection at 9 a.m. and ending at the Signal Bell Lane intersection near the River Hill Village Center. You won’t want to miss it!

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