July 3 2021
Anna Saunders | WCHS
RIPLEY, W.Va. (WCHS) — After a modified version last year, the Ripley Fourth of July celebration was back this year with a full crowd, a full parade and a newfound appreciation for the ability to gather.
This year, Medal of Honor recipient and West Virginia native Hershel "Woody" Williams led the way in the big parade as the marshal.
“I see the true spirit of America here in Ripley today," Williams said. "This is America.”
In its 151st year, the Ripley celebration is one of the state's oldest and longest, also known as the country's largest small town Independence Day celebration. Mike Ruben, the director of Ripley's Convention and Visitors Bureau and one of the main organizers, said it not only brings neighbors together but also brings people home.
"It's also a great homecoming. A lot of people who have left Ripley, the Ripley area for one reason or another, usually this is the time when they come and celebrate with their family and friends," Ruben said.
One of the main events of the week is the parade, and on Saturday organizations, businesses, churches, first responders, veterans and dozens of others lined up to parade through town from Ripley High School to the festivities happening downtown.
“The amount of people that come out and just the sense of community we have during the Fourth of July celebration is just so special," Courtney Winter, Miss Ripley Fourth of July, said.
Last year, the city only held a two-day modified event. This year, the celebration was back to its full week of music, food, rides and special events.
Cory Raines and his family come every year. He said after a year of cancellations, they came this year with a heightened sense of appreciation.
“I’m just glad to see everybody smiling and being happy today," he said.
When it comes to what makes this particular event so special, some will say it is simply what Ripley is known for. Woody Williams, who participated in his third July 4 parade on Saturday, said there is a certain energy in the time-honored tradition that he wishes he could also see in other places, too.
“What I would like to see is that it influences other communities where they would do likewise," Williams said.