Provo community camps out for July Fourth Grand Parade

Garrett and Emily Owens camp out in front of the Provo City Library at Academy Square for the July Fourth parade. Community members start waiting for Provo’s Grand Parade more than 24 hours before the event begins. (Payton Pingree)

Community members from Provo and beyond have started camping out along University Avenue in anticipation of the July Fourth Grand Parade put on by America’s Freedom Festival.

The parade will begin on July 4 at 9 a.m. and will feature marching bands, floats, equestrian entries and other performers. It is considered “the largest of its kind in the Western United States,” according to the Freedom Festival’s website. The parade follows a route beginning at 1000 North University Avenue, proceeding south to 200 South, turning east to 200 East, turning north to Center Street and then turning east and ending at 900 East.

Waiting more than 24 hours in advance for this parade is a beloved tradition for many local families, according to Elizabeth Jacobsen from Mapleton, Utah.

Two kids walk along University Avenue in Provo selling water for those camping out for the parade. Community members start waiting for Provo’s Grand Parade more than 24 hours before the event begins. (Payton Pingree)

“I actually enjoy today more than the parade,” Jacobsen said. “I enjoy the company and waiting with family. You just have to get canopies and umbrellas to shade yourself and I think it’s worth it.”

Jacobsen shared that she is waiting with her mother to save space for 30-40 family members who will arrive in the morning for the parade. This has been their designated job for years, she said.

Elizabeth Jacobsen’s mother, Angela Jacobsen, explained that the festivities the night before can be the most entertaining part.

“It’s basically a public parade at night,” Angela Jacobsen said. She shared that the most memorable activities she has witnessed throughout the years have been a motorized couch, big-screen TVs for playing video games, movies played on projectors against buildings on Center Street and little booths set up selling snacks to the public.

Emily Owens is another individual saving spots for family members. After five years serving active duty in the U.S. Marine Corps, she said she is excited to be back for the annual tradition she has been a part of since she was a kid.

“I love the quality time that I get to spend with my family. We get off our phones, we play cards, we dress up and get faces painted,” Owens said. “It’s a tradition and it’s really meaningful.”

Emily Owens’ husband Garrett Owens is celebrating his first Fourth of July in Provo. He is from North Carolina, where they do not have parades and firework shows of the same scale that Utah does.

“I think it’s interesting that a town event is so large that you have to be out here at least 24 hours before if you want a good spot,” Garrett Owens said. “It’s cool that you have a parade here, we don’t have that in North Carolina.”

Camping chairs, tents and umbrellas line the sidewalk on University Avenue in Provo. Community members start waiting for Provo’s Grand Parade more than 24 hours before the event begins. (Payton Pingree)

The overnight conditions of camping out along a busy road present some challenges.

“The sleeping situation is tough because there’s traffic, but if you have a grassy patch it’s pretty comfortable,” Emily Owens said.

Madison Philp is a 13-year-old whose family camps out every year. She shared that she has always felt safe sleeping outside before the parade. She also shared that she is planning on keeping the camping tradition in her family as she gets older.

“It’s really fun,” Philp said. “I like being with my family. It’s a bonding experience out of the house, and there’s a lot of community.”

The Grand Parade is part of a day packed with patriotic festivities for America’s Freedom Festival in Provo. The festival will also offer a hot air balloon fest from 6-8 a.m., the Freedom Run at 7 a.m., the Freedom Days carnival on Center Street and the Stadium of Fire concert and fireworks show at 8 p.m. in LaVell Edwards Stadium.

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