In Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, a town with a population of just over nine thousand people, the annual 4th of July parade is an event unlike any other. Reportedly, the second largest Independence Day parade in Pennsylvania, it draws upwards of sixty thousand attendees – some of whom haven't missed a parade in the 54 years since it began. Their children, and grandchildren, now attend with them. It's part of the fabric of western Pennsylvania and a cherished, time-honored tradition in Washington County.
As anyone who has ever attended knows, getting a great seat at the parade is all about preparation. Dedicated parade-goers reserve their spots by placing chairs on the sidewalk days in advance (right now, the town allows for chair placement up to 48 hours prior to the parade. In years past, some chairs would be placed weeks ahead of time.) And the unwritten rule is this: you do not mess with someone else's parade chairs. This yearly ritual is regularly covered by local media and counting down the days to the parade has earned the attention of national cable news networks and late night talk shows too.
This year, long-time Fourth of July supporters Range Resources worked with the parade committee to take the chair placement tradition one step further – by offering one local family the chance to experience the parade from a front row, VIP setting complete with first-class transportation to and from the festivities, a “family room” tented location with carpeting and lounge chairs, catered breakfast and lunch, and a position just across from the borough building, which doubles as the center of the famous parade. Individuals were asked to submit a short essay, explaining why the parade is an important part of their lives. It's a concept that came out of conversations with the parade committee – a group of community members who work tirelessly almost year-round to make sure that the next generation of Washington County can continue to enjoy this important celebration.
Matt Pitzarella of Range Resources said it like this: “The parade committee's stories were so thoughtful and sincere – you can't help but want to be a part of this. That's really where the idea came from, the thought that everyone has a story about the parade. That's why people line up their chairs weeks in advance and tens of thousands of people line the streets of a small town, to celebrate Independence Day with their family and friends. I did it as a kid growing up and dozens of our employees at Range did as well.”
More than 125 stories were submitted, and the best were entered into a random drawing – because selecting the single “best” story is an impossible task.
“When I got the call from Range Resources, letting me know that I was the winner, I was beyond thrilled,” says McGuffey's Joe Walker Elementary School third grade teacher, Cassie Allison. Cassie hasn't missed a parade in thirty years. Her grandmother, Clara Krashna, hosted family parade gatherings for five decades with her four daughters: Cassie's mother Joanne and her aunts: Karen, Linda and Diane.
“The parade is very important to my family. My grandmother is 95 now, and she always lived right on the parade route, since the very first parade here in Canonsburg,” says Cassie.
“When she lived on Adams Avenue, she and all of her daughters would make a big event out of getting ready for the parade, she would always decorate, and she would make a big breakfast for all of us. And it just grew as our family grew with grandkids and cousins.”
The tradition continued on Pike Street, where the family now had a new vantage point from which to watch the parade. But in 2012, grandma Clara moved into a nursing home, and it became more difficult to pull everybody together to watch in one place.
“So this year, when we saw there was an opportunity to once again pull all of us together in one place to be together to watch the parade, we knew we had to try to win.”
Cassie found out she won a week before the parade. “When I saw a number for Range Resources pop up on my phone I was in my car and just started saying, “oh my goodness! Oh my goodness!”
On the 4th of July, Cassie's dream of having her entire family together again for the parade came true. The group gathered at two different homes to get ready for the parade. At 8:30 in the morning, thirty of Cassie's family members spanning four generations boarded buses, and made their way to Pike Street and the Range Resources Family Front Row Experience tent. Catering was provided by Hogfather's, and the group also received a set of camping chairs, a Yeti cooler, and gift bags.
“My family and I will never forget this experience,” says Cassie. And although her grandmother couldn't attend the party this year, the Range gift carried on a family tradition that her grandmother started.
"I will always have the memory that my daughter, Olivia, got to experience her first 4th of July in this unique event," says Cassie. "Winning the front-row experience was an opportunity of a lifetime! I am so thankful to Range for selecting me to celebrate the 4th of July in a first class setting while creating more cherished and fun memories with my family and friends."
Cassie was also presented with a Certificate of Commendation from Canonsburg Mayor Dave Rhome during the parade.
“We wanted to surprise Cassie and her family with the certificate, which couldn't have been possible without all of the volunteers and people who attend the parade every year and Range Resources who really outdid themselves this year. This is proof that small town America is alive and well in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania.”
“No one does the 4th of July quite like Canonsburg,” says Range's Matt Pitzarella. “We were so privileged to have people share their parade stories with us as part of this year's contest, and it's an even greater privilege to know that now, Range will be included in those memories too.”