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Clifton's 4th of July, Centennial, Big Success

July 11, 2002

From the American flags in the cupcakes at the potluck supper to the old-fashioned egg-toss games and tugs-of-war in the town park, Clifton's Fourth of July celebration was as patriotic as it comes.

This year's festivities were particularly special because they were in conjunction with the centennial — the 100th anniversary of Clifton's incorporation as a town. And so many activities were planned that they stretched across both July 4 and 5.

"It was as hot as a firecracker [99 degrees], but it was a wonderful two days," said town Mayor Jim Chesley. "Everybody had a heck of a good time."

As befitting an epitome of small-town Americana, Clifton's homes, streets and businesses were all decked out with red, white and blue balloons, flags, ribbons and bunting. And the town gazebo — site of all the speeches and entertainment in the park — looked like something out of the 1890s.

The Fourth of July began with a sunrise nature walk sponsored by the Webb Sanctuary, followed by an interfaith, ecumenical ceremony in the park. Next came a complimentary breakfast for the residents at the Acacia Lodge; then at 3 p.m. came the town parade featuring everything from colorful floats to fancy cars to children on decorated bicycles.

Afterward was a patriotic gathering at the flagpole in Ayre Square, with Chesley and several members of the Town Council. Then, at the gazebo, Chesley read congratulatory letters to Clifton from people including Gov. Mark Warner and Lt. Gov. Tim Kaine.

County Board of Supervisors Chairman Katherine K. "Kate" Hanley and Vienna Mayor Jane Seeman read individual proclamations about the town's 100th anniversary, and Hanley said, "Brigadoon is still alive and well in Clifton." She then contributed some items to the time capsule the town is planning to bury, including maps, a booklet of the county's Revolutionary history, a postcard of the Government Center and a copy of the county's Fiscal Year 2003 budget.

Del. Jay O'Brien (R-40th) said how honored and pleased he is to represent Clifton in the General Assembly," and county Planning Commission Chairman Pete Murphy said "it's always been rewarding" working with Clifton in the Springfield District.

Next came a potluck picnic in the park and lots of fun-filled games for children and adults alike. Water balloons were launched across the lawn by giant rubber bands, and everyone rooted for all the participants in the egg-toss, tugs-of-war, sack races and pie-eating contests.

The Fourth festivities were sponsored by both the town and the Clifton Betterment Association (CBA), and Town Councilman Wayne Nickum estimated about 750 people participated — not bad for a town of just 185 residents, according to the last census. Nickum also noted that it was the 20th anniversary of Clifton's Fourth of July celebration, as well.

Friday evening, July 5, nearly 200 people enjoyed a catered dinner and live concert in the park. But the day began with a ceremonial burial of the time capsule in front of the gazebo. Since more items are still being collected to go inside, the actual burial may not be until Labor Day weekend, in conjunction with the town's annual car show. "This is going to be very special," said five-term congressman and now Clifton resident Robin Beard. "We'll have a plaque made and a formal ceremony."

Meanwhile, Rep. Thomas M. Davis III (R-11th) contributed some of his bumper stickers, his baseball card from the congressional baseball game and a copy of the congressional record honoring Clifton's centennial. Resident Pam Wallace contributed a dated, quilt patch to represent the town's Village Square quilting group which has met weekly since 1981. She also donated a magazine article written about the group.

Nickum contributed a CBA directory, a star from the old Clifton fire station, old Clifton Road and Main Street road signs and — a supreme sacrifice for him — his ever-present, trademark, railroad-engineer's cap.

Resident Tom Peterson is also putting together an album for the time capsule, with a page representing each one of the 75-some families in the town limits. Each page will have photos of their house, family and family activities, plus a note telling what Clifton means to them.

There'll also be a signed photo of former First Lady Nancy Reagan's visit to Clifton, names and photos of the Clifton Fire Station's firefighters and paramedics, a Clifton commemorative centennial postcard, student essays and a yearbook from Clifton Elementary, cookbooks from the Heart in Hand restaurant and the Clifton Community Woman's Club and letters from children.

"There's a box in the general store for kids to write letters and drop them in," said Beard. "They'll write about Clifton to kids in the future."