On July 4, 2002, President George W. Bush delivered a 45-minute “salute to veterans” at Ripley’s annual Fourth of July ceremonies.
It was the first Independence Day following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. The president used the opportunity to comment on the nation’s War on Terrorism, praised the effort of U.S. troops in Afghanistan, and reassured the crowd about homeland security.
The president chose to speak in Ripley because its Independence Day celebration symbolizes the patriotism of small-town America so perfectly. The Jackson County seat claims to have the “Biggest Small Town” Fourth of July event in the nation and the oldest in West Virginia, dating back to the late 1800s. Old photos of the event show patriotic citizens decked out in their Sunday best, peering out of windows and standing on roofs to get a glimpse of the parade. By the late 1960s, the festivities were so well-known that the NBC Today Show broadcast live from Ripley on July 4.
Today, Ripley’s Fourth of July activities include live music, a grand parade, a two-mile race, a beauty pageant, a carnival, and fireworks.