For some Ann Arbor residents, the 12th annual Ann Arbor Jaycees Fourth of July Parade was a chance to show not just what Americans already appreciate about their country, but what everybody, regardless of nationality, should enjoy in the future: A world united.

Paul Wong
Ann Arbor pre-schoolers Maya Burris and Haydin Pitts ride in their Stone School Nursery Fourth of July Buggy in the 12th annual Ann Arbor Jaycees Fourth of July Parade.

The parade began at 10 a.m. Thursday on East William Street heading east and continued down State Street before turning onto East Liberty Street and finally south on Main Street. With 85 groups represented – including the American Red Cross, Leader Dogs for the Blind, Women in Black, the Ann Arbor City Council and several radio stations – this year’s parade was the largest in its 12 year history.

Ann Arbor Jaycees spokeswoman Jessica Sysak said she noticed more community involvement and a more patriotic feeling than in previous years. She added that she was excited by the community’s rising participation and was glad to see a variety of groups turn out for the parade.

“It’s great to get a lot of groups to participate to represent the community,” Sysak said.

In what members said was a move to encourage people to think beyond America, the Ann Arbor Ad Hoc Committee for Peace unveiled their “One World United For Peace Float” at the parade. The float consisted of a broken nose of an out-of-commission missile with flowers sticking out, a six-foot diameter Earth, numerous flags from other nations and a person dressed as the Statue of Liberty.

Phillis Engelbert, an Ad Hoc committee member, said the purpose of the float was “to put forward a positive message on Independence Day of Americans working for peace.” The float was one of the parade’s finales, designed to follow the day’s theme of “United We Stand.”

Mary Bejian, of the Ad Hoc Committee, said that between 15 and 20 people helped with the design and creation of the peace float. During the parade, about 50 people walked with the float distributing leaflets, drumming and handing out chocolate Earthballs. About 2,500 leaflets promoting liberty and peace as cherished American traditions were distributed. The leaflets also offered several “peaceful alternatives to expanding the war on terrorism.”

“We speak to a real wish amongst many people who aren’t being represented in calling for a peaceful resolution to September 11,” Bejian said, adding that she believed the parade’s crowd supported the group’s peace-seeking message. “Occasionally we would call out to the crowd, and people always clapped and cheered.”

Engelbert said that the crowd’s reaction to the float was overwhelmingly positive and that about 15 people from the crowd even joined the procession. “What the public’s response showed me was that people have a desire for peace,” she said. “I’d like to believe that a peaceful world is possible.”

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