CINCINNATI — For the second time in two years, Hamilton Avenue, the main throughway in Cincinnati’s Northside neighborhood is quiet.
No dancers. No floats. No crowds.
But this year, the music is only a few blocks away, coming from a yard surrounded by balloons and sprinklers.
Across the street, flags are waving, there’s a yard filled with pretzels and neighbors are filing over to see just how their friends are choosing to celebrate.
The Northside 4th of July Parade has been a neighborhood tradition since 1854, one of the oldest in the Cincinnati area.
Over the years, it’s grown to attract hundreds of people to watch floats march down Hamilton Avenue and celebrate together at the Rock n’ Roll Carnival.
Then in 2020, the pandemic forced the annual event to take a hiatus and while the state began lifting pandemic restrictions in 2021, the parade committee determined in May it would be too difficult to plan a full-scale event without knowing for certain what to expect.
That’s why they chose instead to have a porch parade, inviting neighbors to decorate their homes and put them on display for locals to see.
Nicole Chaffin’s block was particularly eager to participate.
“This neighborhood is so quirky and eclectic and everybody has to participate in a fun holiday right?” she said while finishing up her decorations.
While most went patriotic with their decor, many on Chaffin’s block wanted to come up with ways to make their personalities shine.
“Everyone is looking at just doing something fun and unique,” she said. “We’ve been stuck inside for how long.”
Chaffin chose something that would make her neighbors laugh, so her theme was based on the Netflix show, Schitt’s Creek.
Her porch was decked out with a wig wall, a motel sign and a string of crows. Her favorite and most interactive feature was the costumes.
For that, she recruited even more neighbors, including four-year-old Finn from down the block.
“Well, we needed a Roland and Finn has the best mullet ever,” she said. “I mean look at this.”
Porch parades gained popularity in February when homes in New Orleans adopted the tradition, decorating their porches after the main festivities were canceled.
Homes could register with the city to create a map of parade homes that locals could use as a guide to see the sights and get to know their neighbors.
Northside’s parade committee followed a similar model, while also adding in smaller block parties where small side streets could be shut down for cookouts and more intimate versions of their large-scale event.
Across the street from Chaffin, a group from Dancefix, which usually has a large parade presence, was setting up their interactive float with inner tubes, kiddie pools, balloons and sprinklers.
After everything the neighborhood had been through in the past year, Dancefix artist Pam Kravetz said they wanted to offer a place where people could celebrate the way they normally would, just in a more intimate setting.
“It’s so perfectly Northside,” she said. “Just the energy and the excitement and the fun will just radiate.”
As for next year, the Northside parade committee is planning to return to their regular traditions, but neighbors say they’d like to see the porch parade continue as well.
“Yeah, it’s super fun like so, you know, after the parade and after the dance party at the end of Hamilton Avenue to come back to everybody’s little porch parties and just have your own little celebration and invite the community to join that way as well,” Kravetz said.