It was disheartening to read the many disparaging comments from readers regarding the West Athens Fourth of July celebration that followed last week’s articles in the Morning Sentinel.

Our family has participated in this event for the past 40 years, which for the most part has been a highly original, peaceful, joyful and safe celebration of freedom at its best. So we feel it important to clear up some misconceptions.

In years past, the parade has been about artistic revelry, from dancing hippies to Skowhegan Art School students in zany costumes and configurations to middle-aged women marching with synchronized lawn chairs.

The unfortunate violent ruckus that occurred this year was not of our (the creators of this event) doing. It grew out of the parade’s growing popularity among young people.

Rather than participating in the event with a protest or a float or a costume, they chose to stand on the sidelines taking advantage of the absence of law enforcement (which we never needed before) by overindulging in “spirits” and behaving with increasing disrespect.

This year brought even larger groups of young people to our town, but not from our town, whose only intention was to create trouble: Aggressively heckling and harassing the parade participants and starting fights.

What happened on July 4 might bring an end to our tradition if we are asked to do so by the residents of West Athens. It is very unfortunate that because of the destructive behavior of a few, we may lose an event which has given so much joy to so many people for so many years.

Anna, Ezra and Peter Freeman

West Athens

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