"Encouraging" was the best word Cindy Diaz could think of to describe how it felt to be watching the Dale City Independence Day parade after the event went on hiatus in 2020 due to COVID-19.

Hundreds of people decked out in red, white and blue lined Dale Boulevard Saturday, July 3, to watch the parade make its way down Dale City's main thoroughfare.

Diaz was there with her mother, her adult children and several grandchildren. She now lives in Fredericksburg but always brings her family back to Dale City for the Fourth of July parade. It was good to see the community come together, she said.

"After all we went through in the past year, with COVID and the election and everything else, it's nice to be here and be one," Diaz said. 

Now in its 50th year, the annual Dale City Independence Day Parade returned this weekend with about 100 participants. Marchers were led by the Gar-Field and Hylton High School marching bands and included a mix of churches, youth groups, politicians and community groups.

The weather was unusually pleasant for the parade. Instead of high heat and humidity, marchers and spectators enjoyed sunny skies, a cool breeze and temperatures in the low to mid-70s.

Organizers Lisa Hicks and Ernestine Jenkins said they were especially thankful for the nice weather and the enthusiastic participation of so many local residents. The two said they usually begin preparing for the parade in January but had to wait until May this year, which was when Gov. Ralph Northam signaled that COVID-19 restrictions would be lifted in time for the July 4 holiday.

Jenkins said they were initially worried they might not recruit enough groups to hold the parade but then were pleasantly surprised when nearly 100 signed up.

"I think people are ready to get out of their houses and, really, to be human again," Jenkins said. "I'm excited it turned out so good."