Two-year-old Kendall Micolo, mother, Lisa, Maci, 3 months, and Kendall, 5, are all dressed up and ready for the Push-n-Pull parade in Darien, on July 4. — Bryan Haeffele photo

Family, friends, fireworks, and America are words that Darien resident Lindsay Rogers used to describe what she said is her favorite holiday — July 4.

On Thursday, Rogers, along with her 3-month-old son Rex, marched in the 15th annual Darien/Norwalk Push-n-Pull Parade, hosted by Darien Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post 6933.

The parade, which began in the Goodwives Shopping Plaza on Old Kings Highway North, went past the Post Road and ended in Tilley Pond Park.

At the park, there was live music by the band Jay and Ray; food vendors selling ice cream, hot dogs, and grilled cheese; and children’s activities including face painting, tattoos, and hair spraying.

Despite the temperature rising into the 80s from early in the day, several thousand people turned out to celebrate the nation’s birthday.

The event was free and open to the public, with a suggested donation of $20 per family.

As part of the parade, children decorated their bicycles, wagons and scooters with flags and streamers in red, white and blue, and were pushed or pulled in them by their family members and friends.

“It’s my first time here,” Rogers said, adding the day is all about “community and fun.”

Competitions were held for best decorated bicycle, scooter, family, dog, and wagon. Winners got to walk in the front of the parade.

The best decorated family was the Micolos. Lisa Micolo, whose three children Makena, 5, Kendall, 2, and Maci, 3 months, all wore clothing with red, white and blue.

“We really go big,” said Lisa Micolo, adding that the parade has become a family tradition.

“We’ve been coming here for four years,” she said, adding that she lives in Norwalk and is a first grade teacher at Tokeneke Elementary School.

“For me, this is so exciting to be part of the community. We look forward to many more years,” Micolo said.

The Yoder family of Stamford, who was pushing 2-year-old Bobby Yoder in a Radio Flyer covered wagon, had a winner as well — Sunny, their 2-year-old Formosan Mountain dog.

Sunny, who was wearing a red and blue bow on her collar, won best dressed dog.

Colleen Yoder has a brother and two grandfathers who served in the U.S. Air Force.

“I had one that was in World War II and one that was in the Korean War,” she said, referring to her grandfathers.

Darien resident Daniel Hrycay, 7, had blue tinsel wrapped around his scooters.

He said he’s marching in the parade because it’s “July 4, the U.S.A.’s birthday.”

First Selectman Jayme Stevenson said the parade has grown over 15 years from “a kernel of an idea to this parade that brings people from all the surrounding communities. It’s still so wonderful and homegrown and really embodies what the town of Darien is all about in terms of small town feel and celebrating America’s birthday today.”

Also at the parade was State Rep. Matt Blumenthal, who represents Stamford and Darien.

Blumenthal said, “It’s amazing to see how the town comes together to celebrate America, our history, and all we’ve accomplished.”

State Rep. Terrie Wood, who represents Darien and Rowayton , said it’s “always a pleasure” to be at the Push-n-Pull Parade.

“The kids love it,” Wood added. “It’s a wonderful way to celebrate Independence Day.”

New Hampshire resident Henry Mafciocchi, who was in town visiting his grandchildren, Ian, 10, and Emily, 6, served in Vietnam in the 1960s while in the U.S. Navy.

“Enjoy the Fourth,” he said. “Go, America.”

Darien VFW Post 6933

Donations to the parade benefit Darien VFW Post 6933, which supports veterans in towns across Fairfield County.

“We use the money that’s donated to support veteran programs such as PTSD, to help veterans get medical care,” said Darien resident John Carter, a member of Darien VFW who served in the U.S. Navy for 30 years.

VFW advocate Sharad Samy of Darien said the parade has “become a staple event here in Darien.”

“It’s an opportunity to bring the whole community together to come and celebrate Independence Day with us, which is fantastic,” he said.

Everyone in the VFW has served oversees at some point in their time with the military, according to Samy.

Samy served in Djibouti, Africa, for a six-month period in 2005.

“I don’t think there are many events in my life quite as educational and wonderful as my time of service,” he said. “During that time of service, I got to meet fantastic people who became my lifelong friends and brothers and sisters forever.”

Samy added that through the Darien VFW, “I’ve met the same folk. Even though we were in different circumstances, we do have a bond.”

The Darien VFW is located at 205 Noroton Avenue. It’s open to the public. It used to be the chapel for the Fitch Home for Soldiers and Orphans, which was the first U.S. veterans home in the United States, established right after the Civil War, according to Samy.

The home was moved to Rocky Hill.

“We bought the chapel and moved it across the street, and now that’s our VFW post,” he said.

Karen Boccadoro from Darien, who performed in the Fife and Drum Corps for the past 10 years, has been at every Darien July 4 parade to date.

She said the parade has grown each year.

“It’s about twice the size it was initially,” Boccadoro said.

According to her husband, Carl — a color guard who dresses up as a war soldier every year — while the parade was originally made up of mostly children, there are now a lot more family members in it, such as grandparents and extended family.

Meaning of July 4

Prior to the march, Stevenson said to the crowd that she hopes parents and caregivers will “take the time to teach your children today why we’re able to enjoy today and all the sacrifices that were made so that we can be free and have awesome parades and picnics the way we do.”

Leading the parade was Darien resident Joe Warren, Housing Authority chairman and owner of Wild Birds Unlimited.

Dressed as Uncle Sam with red and white striped pants, a long blue jacket with white stars, and a red and white striped top hat, Warren said many people misinterpret what Independence Day is really all about.

“This is truly a day of celebration. A lot of work went on before this, back in the 1700s,” he said. “But this was the day when everybody found out just how dramatic a change this was going to make in the world. And here we are, several hundred years later, finding how dramatic that change was, and that’s something that needs to be celebrated.”