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Webster Groves

Tom Marsh swings a lawn mower around the American flags planted in the front yard of his Webster Groves home on Sunday, July 1, 2018. The flags are part of the Fourth of July decorations put out by neighbors along Gray Avenue. This year's Webster Groves Fourth of July parade will have groups representing both the NRA and gun control advocates, as well as politicians, and other issue-driven groups. "I don't like the way the parade has gone. It's all politics, especially in an election year" say Marsh. But he added "It's still fun to see everybody get together." Photo by David Carson, dcarson@post-dispatch.com

The Webster Groves community takes their Fourth of July parade pretty seriously.

So much so that last year, chairs began appearing along the parade route a full nine days before the celebration. It's an unofficial Webster Groves tradition for residents to claim a spot and put chairs out well before the parade starts.

But this year, some residents are concerned less with getting a spot and more with one of the groups in the parade, according to a Facebook post from the Webster Groves Police Department:

"The National Rifle Association is being represented by a float in this year’s Community Days Parade. The Police Department received several inquiries concerning the potential of members associated with the group carrying weapons in the parade.

Although constitutional law would permit those actions, the group has assured us they recognize the family nature of this event and have no intention of openly carrying weapons."

Moms Demand Action, a gun control activist group, will also be marching in the parade. 

Hannah Wood and her family have lived in Webster Groves for about five years. Their house is along the parade route, making it impossible for the family to miss it.

Wood said she was never concerned with open carry during the parade. She grew up in a family that hunted often, and used to have her own concealed carry permit. She just doesn't like the idea of anyone carrying firearms, open or concealed, around so many children.

"One of their platforms is to educate people on public safety, so I feel like if they didn't have guns on them, they wouldn't be doing their job," Wood said. The thought of taking her 5-year-old to the parade and watching what she thinks will be an armed mass march past makes her uncomfortable.

"Well-meaning people with guns are still carrying around something that was designed to kill other beings," she said. She acknowledged the fact that the parade is a public space, and other parade-goers around her could be carrying concealed weapons.

Tom Marsh also lives near the parade route. He said he enjoys walking over to watch the parade every year, though he thinks this year's event has been politicized too much.

Greg and Lindsey Brown feel the same way as Marsh, and it didn't stop them from attending the Webster Groves Community Days Carnival on Sunday with their 5- and 2-year-old sons. The possible political parade kerfuffle won't stop the Browns from attending on the Fourth, either.

"I'm curious to see if it's going to be as bad as they make it sound," Greg Brown said, referring to all of the discussions he's seen on social media. "Because sometimes you get there, and it's not as bad as they made it sound."

Webster Groves hosts the annual Community Days celebration each year during the week of the Fourth of July. The celebration kicked off this year with the Webster Groves Lions Club's carnival and barbecue, and concludes with a fireworks show at 9:30 p.m. on the Fourth. A full schedule of Community Days events is available online at webstergroves.org.

The parade's theme this year is "An American Celebration." It begins at 10 a.m. on July 4 at East Lockwood and Selma Avenues.

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Janelle O'Dea is a data specialist and reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.