For the Withers family, the Dale City Independence Day Parade is a tradition. That’s why Kyonna Henry, a 2005 graduate of Gar-Field High School who now lives in North Carolina, returned to Dale Boulevard Monday morning with her mom, her sister and and her 4-year-old daughter, Saniyah.
“We were visiting grandma, so we had to come out” for the parade, Kyonna Henry said. “This is always an annual tradition for us.”
Hundreds of people decked in red, white and blue lined Dale Boulevard on Monday, July 4, to watch the parade make its way down Dale City's main thoroughfare. Now in its 52nd year, the Dale City Independence Day Parade is one of the largest in the commonwealth.
The parade was canceled in 2020 because of the pandemic and was a bit smaller in 2021. It was back in full force this year, however, with nearly 100 entrants – a mix of churches, community groups, volunteer fire departments, veterans groups, local businesses, scouting troops, youth sports clubs, elected officials and candidates on the ballot this coming November.
Marchers were led by the Prince William County Police and Sheriff’s Honor Guard and Grand Marshall Vanessa Gattis, head of the Prince William County Community Foundation.
Several members of the Sikh Center of Virginia walked the parade route offering cold water bottles to participants and spectators, alike. The group bought 3,400 water bottles and about 120 pounds of ice for the parade, said Davinder Singh, a local businessman and member of the group.
“This is part of doing service to the community. That’s why we deliver cold water [at the parade] every year,” he said.
Friends Desirae Loiseau, 11, and Jayden Jackson, 10, both rising sixth-graders at Heritage Christian School in Woodbridge, said they come to the parade for the free candy and to see friends.
“I love that they show respect to the military people. My mom was a Marine,” Desirae added. 'But it’s really just fun – period. I get to hang out with my friends!”
Making people happy as they celebrate the country’s birthday is what the parade is all about, said Dale City Parade Committee Chairwoman Ernestine Jenkins, who has led the event for 48 years.
“It’s just exciting to me because everybody is just excited and happy,” she said. “The Fourth of July is like no other holiday. It brings the community together.”
Jenkins said the parade has long been a labor of love for herself and her late husband, John Jenkins, who served as the Neabsco District supervisor for 37 years before his death in February 2019. Ernestine said she especially misses her husband on July 4th because he so enjoyed the parade.
“He loved this day because he loved Dale City and he loved the parade,” she said.
The parade has grown over the years and is now sponsored by a dozen different local organizations, including the American Legion, the Dale City Lions Club, the Dale City Volunteer Fire Department, the Woodbridge Elks Lodge, the Dale City Moose Lodge, the Dale City Knights of Columbus and the Boys and Girls Club.
Jenkins said people sometimes ask her how long she will continue to lead the parade, since she has been at the helm of the event for so long. She says she tells them she’ll stay involved as long as she can.
“I love Dale City and I love the parade,” she said. “…I want to do it until I can’t do it because I love this community.”