A star-spangled Fourth

HOWLAND – When asked why she was wearing her red, white and blue, star-spangled dress on Friday, 5-year-old Sophia Spatar explained, “Because it’s the Fourth of July!”

The Howland girl stood on her tiptoes in an attempt to get a better view of the people on the passing floats, waved as they went by and jumped with excitement as they waved back and tossed some candy her way.

“I love it! I love all of it,” she said as her mom, Leslie Spatar, stood by.

“She likes the fire trucks, the police cars and seeing all of the people. And she loves getting the candy, of course. There’s a lot of activity and excitement here and like she says, she loves it,” Leslie Spatar said.

Sophia was among the hundreds of children lined up along East Market Street in Howland on Friday for the community’s annual Fourth of July parade. The procession was part of Howland’s traditional holiday celebration that started with the 5K Stars and Stripes Run.

After the run, the parade took center stage with the Howland High School Band as a highlight.

Keeping with this year’s theme, “America,” many attendees donned Uncle Sam-style hats; red, white and blue striped pants; and star-covered shirts and dresses. Along with waving flags, many of them like Barbara Prokop, a lifelong Howland resident wore their patriotism atop their heads.

Prokop said she has been attending the parade “forever” as part of what has become a family tradition of celebrating Independence Day.

“My son-in-law was a fireman and he used to drive in the parade. We’ve been coming for years. It’s a nice gathering. You see people from the community you know and don’t get to see so often. It’s entertaining and makes you feel part of the community.”

Danny and Karina Repp just moved to Howland from Sandusky and were pleasantly surprised to realize their new community makes such a big effort to observe the holiday. The couple brought their sons to the event.

“I don’t think we really expected it to be quite like this. I think it’s bigger than we thought and a lot more people here. It’s great to be part of it and for the kids to be part of it.”

Activities included a car and bike show, pizza-eating contest, music, games, food and a petting zoo. The event also featured a flyover by the 910th Airlift Wing from the Youngstown Air Reserve Station a bonus for Brighton Gilmour. The 7-year-old Niles boy pointed to the aircraft above him and told his young relatives, “Look, look at the planes up in the sky.”

His mom, Christina Gilmour, said Friday also marked her first time at the parade. Gilmour, who attended the festivities with several family members including her children, said she didn’t expect there to be so many people at the celebration.

“It’s very busy here right now. The kids are so excited. They’re having a great time. I think we’ll definitely try to make it part of our holiday next year if they keep having it. I hope so. We’re having a great time.”