Dunwoody parade expected to be biggest on the Fourth

The annual Dunwoody Salutes America Fourth of July parade Friday morning clearly is a big deal – the biggest Independence Day event in Georgia, promoters say, now that WSB-TV has discontinued its "Salute 2 America" parade in Atlanta after 47 years.

The politicians certainly know it. Candidates for DeKalb CEO, county commission and judgeships will be walking or riding and waving in a target-rich environment: An expected 30,000 spectators, many eligible to vote in the July 15 primary, will watch as vote-seekers wind their way along the 2.5-mile route, amidst the floats, bands and clowns.

One group with a political agenda might stand out. About 40 members representing Dunwoody Yes, a group promoting cityhood for the North DeKalb community, will march in support of a "yes" vote on the upcoming incorporation referendum.

Dunwoody Yes member Rob Augustine said while there isn't a highly-organized effort to get out the pro-referendum crowd, supporters are expected to be noticeable along the parade route.

"If you look at the yard signs and the bumper stickers, I believe we'll have strong support," he said.

Holly Mull, consultant to the parade, agreed. "You'll see a lot of people supporting Dunwoody Yes," she said.

The presence of politicians and political issue proponents among the parade participants is not at all unwelcome. Politics, Mull noted, "has always been part of the parade."

"There are very important First Amendment rights associated with a parade," she said, "particularly with a Fourth of July parade."

The theme of this year's event is "Celebrating Freedom." The title might carry more than traditional, national implications for cityhood boosters who hope to carve out their own municipality inside DeKalb, though Augustine waved off the connection.

The list of registered parade participants showed no group or individual identified as being an opponent of the referendum. Public opposition to the cityhood drive has been relatively subdued.

The parade itself will not be.

Mull said there were 124 confirmed parade "units" as of Wednesday, including marching bands, floats, antique vehicles, a flag-carrying football team, Boy Scouts, cheerleaders and dogs. The event has grown so large that this year, for the first time, trash receptacles – 200 of them – are needed.

The parade begins at 9:30 a.m. and ends in a shopping center and a post-parade festival. There will be live music, including a 45-minute patriotic concert, and food, activities and awards. It's a four-hour-and-then-some deal – enough time to toast independence and make a political case.

Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.

Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.