Immigration, gun control, Disney princesses all find a spot in Lexington's July 4 celebration

Lexington's July 4: Square dancing, hot cars and dogs, a plea for immigrant families

Thousands turned out for Lexington's Fourth of July festival and parade, despite a heat index of 103 degrees.
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Thousands turned out for Lexington's Fourth of July festival and parade, despite a heat index of 103 degrees.

Hot-button social issues such as immigration control and gun reform were reflected in Lexington's annual Fourth of July Parade Wednesday afternoon.

The parade, which was part of the larger Fourth of July Festival celebrated downtown, featured supporters of candidates vying for office, from Congress to coroner. Supporters of Amy McGrath and Andy Barr, who will fight for the 6th Congressional District in a nationally heated midterm election, gathered in large numbers with signs in the parade as well as booths at the festival.

Advocacy groups such as Moms Demand Action, which demonstrates in favor of gun control, and the Migrant Network Coalition, a group of organizations for immigration rights, paraded down Main Street along with local businesses and clubs. Activists with Mijente, an advocacy group for Latino rights and immigration reform, waved American flags and chanted "Families belong together!" as groups passed their station.

"Yes they do, baby, don't let it go!" remarked a parade participant dressed like the Disney princess Elsa from the movie "Frozen." She and about a half dozen other princesses made their way along the parade route, delighting children in the crowd.

"I feel like it’s my civic duty to protest when I see something immoral," said Zachariah Leatherman, a student at Berea College who held a sign encouraging people to vote to effect policy change. "I’ve called my representatives, often to no response, so what else is there to do?”

Elvia Rojas, another Berea College student and a DACA recipient, wore red, white and blue eyeshadow to the parade.

"I think today is a very appropriate day. We have to think about what’s going on, we can’t ignore it," she said. "I want to remind people why we celebrate Fourth of July."

Marchers with the group also carried signs for the Maxwell Street Legal Clinic, which provides legal assistance to immigrants, and the National Organization for Women.

Moms Demand Action made their presence known with enormous letters spelling "MOMS" held high. Their appearance in the parade came one day after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told a group of Danville community leaders that there isn't much the federal government can do about school shootings other than appropriate funds.

The Democratic and Republican parties were both present at the street festival, registering voters for the November midterm elections.

"We believe in the message," said Bonnie Reed, a volunteer for the Republican Party. "[The Founding Fathers] paid a price for independence. We want to build, we don’t want to tear down."

See the setup of Lexington's Fourth of July fireworks show on top of the Fifth Third Bank building, hosted by Downtown Lexington Partnership.

At 11 a.m., the Declaration of Independence was read aloud by several different people, highlighting the unity envisioned at the country's founding. Local historical reenactor Ron Winfield watched from the sidelines in full Revolutionary period costume, including a historically accurate rifle he built himself and which he said he has used to start the Bluegrass 10,000 race for 30 years.

About 70 vendors packed the streets for the festival, undeterred by temperatures in the 90s. The city was capping its celebration with a 15-minute fireworks display at 10 p.m., brought back downtown this year to be shot off the Lexington Financial Center, or the "Big Blue Building." The fireworks were likely be visible in 98 percent of the county, according to Terry Sweeney, president and CEO of the Downtown Lexington Partnership.