Toting lawn chairs, water toys and cameras, thousands of spectators lined the streets of downtown Bettendorf on Thursday morning for the annual Fourth of July parade.

For proud father Bill Allen of Davenport, the parade was all about seeing his daughter, Carlie, dance with the Expressions of the Quad-Cities Dance Academy and watching the parade units pass by.

“It’s a beautiful day for the parade,” he said, holding an umbrella up to block the sun.

The Greater Bettendorf Community Foundation sponsored the parade, which began with police vehicles flashing their lights — appropriately, red and blue — on their way down State Street. Many who had been sitting stood to wave and applaud.

Variations on the parade's theme — "Let's Fly Old Glory!" — was in evidence as bands, cheerleaders, old car buffs, and a few star-spangled animals greeted onlookers enthusiastically.

As the parade passed by, children eagerly reached for candy and other treats that came their way. Those that didn't go into the bags they clutched were popped into eager mouths.

“Oh, the parade is just awesome,” said Lorie Townsend of LeClaire, who was accompanied by her daughter, Miah. “We love it.”

Townsend said she was especially moved by the procession of 55 American flags carried by members of the Quad-City Morning Optimist Club.

“It was very emotional for me,” Townsend said with tears in her eyes. “As I mature in age, I realize how blessed we are to be in this country.”

This was the fourth year that John Robert has carried one of those flags.

“It’s a beautiful thing to do on the Fourth of July,” he said. “It’s the birthday of the country and we’re showing off the symbol of the country. It’s wonderful.”

As the parade ended, Bettendorf's other celebratory event was just getting started. The Bettendorf Fourth of July Festival, presented by Trinity Bettendorf, took place near Cumberland Square and along Spruce Hills Drive.

With activities that included live music, a petting zoo, inflatable bouncers, airbrush tattoos and classic American food, the area was full of people.

“This is probably the No. 1 place to be in the Quad-Cities for the Fourth,” said caricature artist Leo Kelly.

Kelly, who said it was his first year drawing at the festival, enjoyed the reactions people had when they get their caricatures.

“Some people are really joyous,” he said.

That was the case for Lindsey Vanorder and her family, who were happy to bring their newest addition, 10-month-old Ryker, to the festival. They stopped by Kelly’s tent to commemorate the day with a drawing of Ryker.  

“We try to come here every year and do everything,” Vanorder said, smiling at her son.

While families like the Vandovers toured the festival on foot, a few folks arrived by air.

Nick Bert of East Moline was one of the jumpers who glided in by parachute. Behind him, he flew a banner of the American flag.

In all, he planned to do seven jumps on Thursday. What makes him do it?

“It’s the Fourth of July,” he said. “It’s for our country.”