By Brittany Lyte
Among the throngs of people who paraded to local beaches and parks in celebration of America’s 236th birthday Wednesday were immigrants, vacationers and Connecticut natives who returned here from far-flung places to rediscover their roots.
Some of the most patriotic celebrants were foreigners who now consider America, and particularly Greater Bridgeport, as their home. Others traveled here to visit relatives or to escape the oppressive New York City heat and enjoy the suburban views.
John McCabe and his 9-year-old son, Jack, strung hunks of cheese on the end of their fishing lines as they prepared to hook a few fish in the lower duck pond behind Milford City Hall.
“We’re novice fishermen,” John McCabe explained.
It was the duo’s first Fourth of July in Connecticut, and Jack was excited to learn what kind of fish were swimming in the foreign waters at his feet.
“I guess sunfish,” said Jack, “but I don’t really know.”
The McCabes are from the outskirts of Philadelphia. They came to Milford to celebrate the holiday at John McCabe’s parents’ summer home. After a few hours of fishing, the father and son had plans to barbecue outdoors and maybe catch some fireworks.
“So far, this had been a good place to spend the holiday,” John McCabe said.
home away from home
Juliana Delfino, a native Brazilian, held a paper plate piled high with raw sausage links ready for grilling. He spouted off the holiday lunch menu: barbecue sausage, rice, beans and potatoes.
It was noon and soon there would be more than 50 Brazilians gathered to celebrate Independence Day beneath a blue tent overlooking the Long Island Sound at Bridgeport’s Seaside Park.
“We celebrate it just like you guys,” said Delfino, who immigrated to Bridgeport six years ago when she was 23. “Maybe we celebrate it more because we came here looking for better things and for success and we found that here.”
By lunchtime most of Delfino’s friends had arrived for the barbecue, many of them dressed in apparel adorned with American flags.
“We’re patriotic, too,” said Tim Malagone, a 48-year-old Brazilian who settled in Bridgeport 14 years ago. On his head he wore a cowboy hat emblazoned with the star spangled banner.
“I would never go back to Brazil,” he said. “My daughter was born here. This is home now.”
Patty Decker grew up in Stratford’s Lordship neighborhood. Then she followed in her sister’s footsteps and moved to Texas. But on the Fourth of July she and 29 of her relatives were back in Stratford, where she and her niece, Lauren Grady, spent part of the afternoon skipping stones at Russian Beach.
America’s birthday wasn’t the real reason for the family reunion. Decker’s parents’ burial and a celebration of their lives was scheduled for the weekend. Decker’s mother was from Fairfield. Her father was a native of Bridgeport.
But in the meantime, the family members who had already arrived were celebrating Independence Day with time spent at the beach and an afternoon picnic.
“It’s my first time in Connecticut that I really remember, and it’s (my boyfriend’s) first time in Connecticut and when we go in a few days it will be his first time in New York,” Grady said with a light Texan twang.
While in town reuniting with her relatives, Decker planned to show Grady her great grandmother’s former home in Fairfield.
“I’m going to show her our roots,” Decker said. “Where we all came from.”
Alison Suri traveled from Brooklyn, N.Y., to Southport on Wednesday with her son, Jameson, to attend the Pequot Library’s annual 4th of July Bike Parade.
“It’s wonderful,” Suri said as dozens of kids competed in sack races on the library’s Great Lawn after riding bikes, decorated in the colors of Old Glory, from Southport Center to the library. “You certainly don’t find opportunities like this in the city. My son is 3½. He gets to come ride bikes and run around with the kids and just experience the suburbs and experience the holiday as well.”
At 10 a.m., more than 100 kids rode bicycles, decorated in red, white and blue ribbons and streamers, from the “Five Corners” intersection in Southport Village to the 720 Pequot Ave. library a few blocks away. The kids then enjoyed sack races, a Revolutionary relay race, hula-hoop contest, American Revolution trivia contest, face painting, arts and crafts and hot dogs and ice cream, all on the Pequot Library’s Great Lawn, over the next two hours.
The 4th of July Bike Parade has become an annual tradition for the McKinnis family, said Beth McKinnis. She was at the parade with her husband, David, and their children, Sarah, 11, Andrew and Alex — who are 8-year-old twins — and Matthew, 5.
“The kids love the bike parade and we enjoy the small-town feel of it,” Beth said.
Correspondent Andy Brophy contributed to this story.