Any other year, the residents of Monticello Park, a neighborhood on San Antonio’s West Side, would have celebrated Independence Day with a parade for their youngest neighbors. Kids would have lined up with bikes or wagons and marched along the streets high-fiving or freely giving hugs.

For fifteen years, the neighborhood has hosted some kind of celebration and in the last few, they’ve gathered at Woodlawn Lake Park to join in with official City festivities.

But this year, with just about every gathering canceled and public health officials asking San Antonians to stay home, plans changed.

Monticello Park adapted, adopting what has become a tradition of its own in recent months: the socially distant car and bike parade. Neighbors gathered Saturday morning with masks and patriotic decorations in the parking lot of a nearby church.

Neighborhood association president Cathy Teague decorated her vehicle with red, white, and blue sparkly streamers and signs announcing the holiday. Wearing a red dress and blue mask, she chatted with residents before the parade began at 9 a.m.

“We are a community that likes to gather and we usually do it all year long,” Teague said. “We haven’t been able to safely gather recently. … This felt like the right way to celebrate.”

The parade started with neighborhood association vice president Gary Hudman leading the way in his car, followed closely by a pack of parents and children on bikes. Hudman’s job was to regulate the speed so no one fell behind on the less than one-mile route.

Families ride bicycles through the Monticello Park neighborhood during an Independence Day parade. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

Neighbors watched the spectacle from their front yards as those driving honked their horns or leaned out their windows to wave a flag. The children on bikes slowed their pace to wave excitedly at familiar faces they hadn’t seen in some time.

The night before Monticello Park’s parade, another group gathered on San Antonio’s South Side, also transforming their normal celebrations to fit the times.

Under more typical circumstances, many families would have celebrated the Fourth with a fireworks show, inviting family or friends to watch. While the use of fireworks is illegal in city limits, many travel to unincorporated pockets in the county to marvel at their own show.

With gathering sizes limited and celebrating with anyone outside of your household discouraged, a few San Antonio bloggers decided to put together a socially distant fireworks show. They posted on social media earlier in the week, encouraging San Antonians to join them Friday night in the parking lot of Mr. W Fireworks across from Southside High School.

At 9 p.m., the parking lot was full of families sitting in their cars or spread out in lawn chairs near their vehicles. A number of kids climbed onto car roofs to watch the show from on high. Katy Perry’s “Firework” played over one of the car speakers, setting a festive soundtrack for the occasion.

Fireworks burst in the sky as children watch while sitting atop their parents’ car. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

Tiffany Munoz traveled with her daughter from north of downtown to see the fireworks. On a normal Fourth of July, Munoz would be spending time with her whole family, barbecuing or spending time outdoors.

“Tomorrow I’m not going to be anywhere, I’m going to stay home,” Munoz said. “We’ll all be in our separate homes … and I don’t even have a big family.”

Nicole Elizondo also brought her kids to see the show. The opportunity to spend some time outside felt like a special occasion.

“We’ve been inside for a really long time, so this gets us fresh air and lets them watch the fireworks,” Elizondo said, as her young daughter sat on her lap, a little unsettled at the loud noises.

The rest of Elizondo’s kids loved watching the bright lights, though.

“Honestly, three out of four isn’t bad for them,” she joked.

Emily Donaldson reports on education for the San Antonio Report.