New York City's most liberal mayor in a generation marched Friday to enthusiastic cheers in the most conservative borough's historic July Fourth parade.
Bill de Blasio, following a mayoral tradition followed by several of his predecessors, spent Independence Day as the honored guest at Staten Island's Travis Parade, one of the nation's oldest such processions.
"This is clearly the Fourth of July at its best here," he said. He recounted how Benjamin Franklin and John Adams met on Staten Island on Sept. 11, 1776 with the British who sought the revolutionaries' surrender. They refused.
"It's not just parades, it's not just barbecues, it's not just time with family. It's a time to think about what this country's about, it's a time to remember the blessings of liberty that people fought for, for generations," he said. His own father lost part of a leg fighting in World War II.
De Blasio was joined by the Staten Island borough president and its district attorney, members of the City Council and State Legislature, the state attorney general, embattled Rep. Michael Grimm (R-Staten Island) and others.
Grimm has been indicted on federal tax-fraud charges and earlier this year had to apologize for threatening to toss a reporter off a congressional balcony.
Before the parade, Grimm said: "I think on the Fourth of July everyone will be polite, but I wouldn't say it's friendly turf."
For the most part, everyone was polite.
De Blasio received a smattering of boos -- a handful shouted at him over his policy on reducing the NYPD stop-and-frisk tactic, giving union members raises, and schools policy -- but they were by far in the minority. Most cheered and snapped pictures.
"Oh, my God, it's the mayor! Mayor de Blasio! He's so tall! He's monster tall!" said Ashley Wilkes-Cody, 30, of the New Springville neighborhood, celebrating with family and friends.
Dressed in shirtsleeves, khaki pants and sneakers, the mayor marched about a mile in the rain before making a detour into a volunteer firehouse to watch the France-Germany World Cup game, nosh on sausage and peppers, and hang out with the firefighters.
When the western shore hamlet of Travis had its first Independence Day parade, in 1911, William Howard Taft was president, a quart of milk was 9 cents, and consolidated New York City had just become a teenager.
It's been held every year since, said Janice Blanchard, chairwoman of the parade organizers.
This year's parade got underway about 12:30 p.m. with a slight drizzle falling, following a ceremony.
Among others making appearances at the parade were veterans, firefighters, vintage cars, costumed cartoon characters, "Funny Factory" clowns, and, of course, lots of red, white and blue.