The Annual Bristol 4th of July Celebration began in 1785 when Rev. Henry Wight of the First Congregational Church and a Veteran of the Revolutionary War conducted the first Patriotic Exercises. It is not known exactly when the Parade started but it is thought that it evolved from the procession of community members walking to Patriotic Exercises. The Parade, the Military, Civic and Firemen's Parade, is believed to have begun in the early 1800's.
Each year, the Celebration officially begins on June 14th, Flag Day, beginning a period of outdoor concerts, soap-box races and a firefighters' muster at Independence Park. The celebration climaxes on July 4 with the oldest annual parade in the United States, "The Military, Civic and Firemen's Parade", an event that draws over 200,000 people from Rhode Island and around the world. These elaborate celebrations give Bristol its nickname, "America's most patriotic town".