Hundreds and hundreds of people braved the scorching heat to celebrate America’s independence at the annual Dunwoody Fourth of July Parade.

Numerous tents lined much of Mount Vernon Road to watch the parade that included marching bands, military veterans, local businesses and local politicians.

Kelly Grant of Dunwoody staked out a spot on July 3, readying two tents for the big day.Grant has been coming to the parade for six years, but only the last four years has she put up tents, adding more and more amenities each year.

“I built the tents [July 3] at about 7 p.m. — every year I build on the experience to make it bigger and better,” she said.

Judi Dorward, far left, Rob Ortner, Kelly Grant holding Joe Grant, and Max Grant enjoy the Dunwoody Fourth of July Parade.

“This year the newest addition is the table and chairs,” she said, pointing to a child-sized table and chairs while friends and family lounged in adult chairs, snacking on doughnuts and drinking water or mimosas.

Her father, Rob Ortner, was celebrating his birthday on July 4. Grant decorated the tent with “Happy Birthday” — for him and America.

Grant’s aunt, Judi Dorward, praised Grant for her parade-watching gusto. “She does it all!” she said.

Kathy Tholen was watching the parade with Grant and her family. Her son-in-law is Matt Gephardt, owner of the popular Village Burger restaurant. “Every year I’ve walked in the parade and this year I wanted to watch it,” she said.

Grant said she loves bringing people together to enjoy a special day.

“I love the community part of it,” she said of the parade. “I love celebrating what the day means but also love being with family and friends. And I love parades.”

As veterans rode by in classic cars, spectators applauded and cheered, not stopping until all had gone by. Children held plastic bags waiting for parade participants to fill them with candy. Red, white and blue dominated most everyone’s attire.

After the approximate two-hour parade, a closing ceremony was held in Dunwoody Village that included the swearing in of 40 new U.S. citizens from 28 countries.

The 116th Army Band, which also marched in the parade, performed a short concert leading up to the ceremony, playing patriotic songs, including “America the Beautiful” and a medley of service songs. “Georgia on my Mind” was the final song.

Those ready to take their Oath of Allegiance to the U.S. sat under a red-and-white tent cooled with large fans. Department of Homeland Security officials thanked the Dunwoody Homeowners Association, sponsor of the parade, for hosting the ceremony for the second year.

Rabbi Spike Anderson of Temple Emanuel gave the invocation, praising the country’s diversity. Local elementary school teacher Erin Castello sang the National Anthem and Miss Georgia 2016 led the crowd in the Pledge of Allegiance. Presenting the colors was the Dunwoody High School Air Force Junior ROTC.

Brett Rinehart, the Atlanta field office director at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, led the new citizens in their oath and urged them all to “share their journey” as they contribute to making the country “as great as it can be.”

Larysa Miroshmichenko, who moved to the U.S. from Ukraine in 1997, became a U.S. citizen at the Dunwoody Fourth of July Parade.

Larysa Miroshmichenko, who moved to the U.S. from the Ukraine in 1997, carried balloons and roses handed to her by family after she became a U.S. citizen.

“I am so happy and so proud,” she said.

Rocky Mezidor moved to Georgia in 2009 from Haiti. “This is July 4th, it’s like Flag Day,” he said, smiling. “I feel happy. Today’s a good day.”


Click on photos below to enlarge. For more photos of the parade, click here.

Dyana Bagby is a staff writer for Reporter Newspapers and Atlanta Intown.