Parade rolls through Free Union
By James Fernald
Daily Progress staff writer
Monday, July 4, 2005

Colton Lee Johnson, 3, rolls down Free Union Road in his Jeep alongside his mother, Melissa, during the Patriot Parade in Free Union on Sunday, July 3 2005.
Colton Lee Johnson, 3, rolls down Free Union Road in his Jeep alongside his mother, Melissa, during the Free Union Annual Patriotic Parade. The Daily Progress/Brady Wolfe 

Whether it’s a pair of roosters on a float, a taxidermist with foxes and bobcats or a movie star posing for glamour shots, the Free Union Annual Patriotic Parade on Sunday had it all.

“The day of the parade you get whatever you can in the shed, bang it together and put your kids in it,” Free Union Road resident Mark Neisser said.

From Free Union Church of the Brethren to Free Union Baptist Church on Millington Road, more than 60 people of all ages drove lawnmowers, tricycles, battery-operated vehicles, all-terrain vehicles and vintage cars such as a Ford Thunderbird in the 15-minute-long parade. The parade’s organizer, Bridget Mitchell, said it drew one of the biggest crowds in its 10-year history and once again helped build a community bond.

“It’s a way for our community to stay in touch with each other,” Mitchell said. “It’s about all kinds of people respecting each other. It doesn’t matter what you do - everybody is welcome in the community.”

Neisser’s 9-year-old daughter, Madison, helped pull a float with roosters “Beau” and “Spot” on board while 4-year-old sister Ruby took pictures of stage and movie star Veanne Cox on another float. Cox, a Richmond native who appeared in “Erin Brockovich,” “Two Weeks Notice” and “You’ve Got Mail,” enjoyed a smaller parade than the ones she is used to at her New York home.

“It upholds community standards that this country was made great upon,” Cox said. “Where else do you get a parade where you have a taxidermist with his animals out - not in the Macy’s parade.”

The main attractions included jugglers and a barbershop quartet, the Autumn Leaves Quartet, that kept the procession moving slowly as onlookers smiled. Del. Rob Bell, R-Albemarle, participated, as did David C. Wyant, a member of the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors, and Steve Koleszar, the Democratic nominee for the 58th District House of Delegates seat.

“People like to see their politicians face-to-face,” Koleszar said. “This [parade] has a very human feel - it wasn’t like it was a huge production, it was just neighbors having a great time doing their thing.”

Free Union resident Mark Worthington said his 2-year-old son, Josh, rode in a car with Wyant in the parade.

“For 2-year-olds, this is the perfect thing - it’s probably the safest place on the planet and it’s the only parade in the world where you can just get in the parade,” Worthington said.

Contact James Fernald at (434) 978-7299 or