Hillside hasn’t always been a neighborhood where kid-sightings were common.

“When I first would go for walks around the neighborhood, I would think, ‘Are there any kids here ever?’” recalls Ann Wilson, who has lived in Hillside for five years and has a 2-year-old. “But we’ve seen a real flip in this neighborhood from single couples to families. I can look out my window now and see several strollers passing by, and a while ago there were just dog walkers.”

So it’s only natural that Hillside’s Fourth of July celebration will be a kiddie parade — red, white and blue-decorated wagons, tricycles, bicycles, strollers and big wheels. Maybe a cherry red convertible, and there’s talk of a mom trailer, but mostly just cherubic faces rolling down Hillside’s streets.

The trend toward kid festivities started last year when three moms on Blessing Drive were sitting around talking. For years, Elaine Bartlett had thrown a Halloween party for her and her husband’s friends. But now she was a mother of two young boys and didn’t feel up to the annual task.

“Once you have kids, there’s this switch, and you can’t handle it,” Bartlett says.

Her friend, Erin Bardin, suggested organizing a children’s carnival instead, and both Bartlett and Wilson jumped on the idea. They stuck fliers all over the neighborhood and hoped about 40 people would show up, but they underestimated.

“I’d say 150 people came and went, and not just people with kids,” Bardin says. “It pulled the community together for sure. I see other moms at the grocery store now that say, ‘Hey, you’re the one…’”

The Blessing moms have used e-mails collected at the Halloween carnival to organize the Fourth of July parade. The instructions are simple: Dress crazy and fun, and go all-out patriotic. (There will be a prize for best decorations.) Wilson and her 2-year-old daughter are draping a flag across the back of their wagon and stringing star garland and bows around it.

Bartlett and Bardin may draw from their previous July 4 parade experience. As a child, Bartlett dressed from head to toe in red and wore a tri-corner hat while riding a tandem bicycle with her father, and Bardin, who grew up in Lakewood, wore a platinum bathing suit and rode in the mayor’s car.

Such outfits are not necessary to participate in the upcoming Hillside parade. Neither is having kids — everyone in the neighborhood is invited to pull up lawn chairs or pile into driveways to wave at the children rolling by.

“We really are hoping that the singles and older people in the neighborhood are going to come out and enjoy it, too,” Bartlett says.

Hillside Fourth of July Parade

When: Tuesday, July 4, 9 a.m.
Where: The parade starts at the corner of Ravendale and Rockaway, circles Ravendale and Vada, and ends at 6904 Blessing with doughnuts, juice and other breakfast treats.
How to participate: Just pull up a trike or bike the morning of July 4 and be ready to ride.

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