Ashland's Fourth of July Parade stormed through downtown Thursday in classic American melting- pot fashion.

Ashland's Fourth of July Parade stormed through downtown Thursday in classic American melting- pot fashion.

Immigration reform advocates, evangelical sign-wavers, bicyclists, motor heads, candy throwers, organic-only growers, wood choppers and plenty of other show-stoppers wooed about an estimated 25,000 people on hand for the red-white-and-blue celebration.

To the disappointment of thousands of anxious parade-goers, the roaring Air Force jets that typically fly over town touching off the procession were nowhere to be found — their absence the result of one of the numerous budget cuts imposed this year by federal sequestration.

A pair of refurbished 1942 Boeing-Stearman biplanes buzzed over town twice in their place, and the gallivanting began.

"We absolutely love this parade, there is such diversity ... there always has been," said Nancy Holley, 64, of Ashland, perched on the corner of Liberty Street and Siskiyou Boulevard along the parade route.

"This parade just seems to be something that Ashlanders really enjoy. I enjoy all the babies and community involvement and just shutting the town down and having an artistic and emotional expression of Americana," she said.

Just then, a police officer on a bicycle rode past, followed by a shirtless man sporting a multi-colored mohawk riding a unicycle.

"See what I mean," she said, pointing and cheering.

The parade, themed "Of the People, By the People," was led by Grand Marshal Arnold Meads, who served in the South Pacific theater of World War II.

"There was a lot of great family interaction ... people were staying safe and hydrated. It just felt like a fun event," said Katharine Flanagan, marketing director for the Chamber of Commerce, which organizes the celebration.

Never mind the lack of jets, shrugged three-year-old Case Howser-Daunt, of Portland, who was having fun during his third outing to the Ashland celebration.

"I like when the marching bands come. They are not scary, they just play music," he said, walking with his sister and mom.

"It's a great parade," said Chelsea Smith, 21, of Billings, Mont. "So many nice people ... different, but nice."

Sam Wheeler is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Email him at