A nine-year tradition in Gardner’s Sunset Ridge subdivision has grown into an annual Independence Day neighborhood festival.
Every July 4 dozens of neighbors of all ages gather on a closed street in the southern part of the subdivision, riding motorcycles, bikes, scooters and tricycles decked out in red, white and blue.
A patrol car from the Gardner Police Department and a fire engine from Johnson County Fire District No. 1 lead the procession of more than 50 people on a parade route that circled the neighborhood twice.
Neighbors who didn’t march in the parade watched from lawn chairs on their front yards and porches.
Several homes were decorated with the Stars and Stripes for the occasion.
Following the parade, Rick “Hollywood” Stallsworth served lunch to police officers, firefighters and neighbors as his driveway became the neighborhood gathering spot.
A portion of Meadowlark Street was closed to traffic to accommodate the gathering.
“It’s really a neighborhood block party,” Stallsworth said. “Open invitation. Everybody knows it.”
The afternoon concluded with live music from the Out Of The Blue band.
Stallsworth said by the time the music starts, the crowd usually numbers around 175.
Later in the evening, the neighborhood offered a prime vantage point for observing the community fireworks display just blocks away.
Stallsworth said he organizes the annual event as his way of giving back to his close-knit neighborhood.
He has lived in Sunset Ridge since 1999.
“(The event) is just to show my appreciation for my neighbors and friends,” he said.
But this year’s gathering was especially significant because it was dedicated to the memory of Stallsworth’s father-in-law, Frank Ashley, who passed away last year.
“It’s a celebration of life for him,” Stallsworth said.