As the color guard passed through the streets of downtown Layton, spectators at the Liberty Days parade fell silent. Parents rose from their portable lawn chairs, placed their hands over their hearts, and nudged their young children to do the same.
The hush was so complete that the soft voice of the standard bearer could be heard intoning “left, right, left” as she coordinated her team’s footfalls.
After the color guard had passed, a large float appeared, hitched to a tractor and flanked by four golf carts. Each cart was decked out in red, white and blue streamers. Volunteers in “I ❤️ Layton” shirts dashed from the float to the carts and back again, distributing free popsicles to parade spectators.
One of those volunteers was Joy Petro, Layton’s mayor, and the popsicles were her idea. She and her colleague Tom Day remembered getting popsicles at Liberty Days as kids, so they decided to revive the tradition, even if it meant handing out an estimated 14,000 popsicles along the parade route on a scorching summer day.
“Tradition is important,” said Petro. “It helps you understand where your roots are.”
Liberty Days kicked off early Monday with a breakfast in Layton Commons Park, followed by a Fun Run 5K and a More Fun Less Run for young children.
For some participants, like Nicholas Murray and Paul Hubenthal, the Fun Run meant business.
Murray, the first-place finisher, is a Layton High graduate with plans to run for Weber State in the fall. For him and his high school cross-country team, the race is a tradition.
After overcoming knee issues and a final season affected by the pandemic, “I was just glad I was able to get my legs rotating again,” Murray said. He finished the race in under 17 minutes.
Hubenthal ran the entire 5K holding a large American flag. “There are people out there who take great pride in America,” he said. “With all the anti-American sentiment out there, we need to rally around the flag.”
Though the flag generated considerable wind resistance during the race, Hubenthal says he felt inspired, not weighted down. Describing his mindset while running with the flag, he said, “The pride in your heart swells and you don’t even feel it.”
The parade also featured a wide array of floats and performers, including the Layton Fire Department, the Layton High School Lancelles, the Wasatch & District Pipe Band, and more.
Layton residents Meredith and Chris Beard designed and built a float inspired by Layton’s past and present. Designed to honor the city’s agricultural past, the float featured sugar beets and onions, two of Layton’s historical staple crops.
Parade spectators Travis and Danielle Hodges staked out their spot along the parade route 48 hours in advance using duct tape (staking out a spot with actual stakes is not permitted by Layton City).
This was the 15th year in a row that they’d attended Liberty Days. “We even came in the rain one year,” said Danielle.
For Karaline Taylor, another parade spectator, the Liberty Days parade was an opportunity to make a political statement. She hung a Pride flag on the side of her tent and wrote Black Lives Matter in chalk on the sidewalk.
Taylor and her family and friends have been protesting at the event since 2016, when they heard Mitt Romney would participate in the parade. “It’s hard to celebrate a free America when so many people don’t have access to those same freedoms,” said Taylor.
Layton residents celebrate Independence Day with sports, games and a parade /p>