PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — If it’s possible to make the country’s oldest Fourth of July celebration more quintessentially American than normal, this is the year.
The parade in the seaside town of Bristol — down a street whose dividing line is painted red, white and blue year-round — will feature newly crowned Miss USA Olivia Culpo, who represented Rhode Island in the pageant last month. She won the title for the country’s smallest state for the first time.
‘‘It’s a real honor to have someone from Rhode Island win, and to have her be in front of 100,000 people’’ at the parade, said Ray Lavey, chairman of the parade, which dates to the early 1800s. ‘‘It’s going to be a great thing for her, and a great thing for us.’’
The parade — which sometimes draws as many as 150,000 spectators, according to organizers — has elaborate floats, some of the country’s top drum and bugle corps, a Miss July Fourth, a Little Miss July Fourth and, of course, a chief marshal, who is considered nothing short of royalty in town. This year’s ‘‘patriotic speaker’’ is Ira Magaziner, who served as a senior adviser to President Bill Clinton. The parade also features a Congressional Medal of Honor recipient from Milwaukee.
But organizers know the drawing power of Culpo, a 20-year-old Boston University sophomore who hails from Cranston and swears she competed for the title of Miss Rhode Island on a whim.
Culpo will appear in the parade in the chief marshal’s division driven by a former Bristol police chief in a blue limited-edition Mustang Cobra. (Lavey had considered suggesting a Bentley but says Culpo’s handlers wanted to make sure she was riding in an American car.)
Culpo’s homecoming — she hasn’t yet set foot in the state since the crown became hers — will be a bit of the whirlwind she’s becoming more used to as she prepares to represent the United States in the Miss Universe competition.
A self-described ‘‘cellist nerd,’’ she'll perform with the Rhode Island Philharmonic Pops Orchestra at India Point Park in Providence for the capital city’s Fourth of July celebration. Two days later, she'll be presented with a key to the city of Cranston, her hometown, by Mayor Allan Fung.
‘‘I've never really done anything with the mayor of Cranston, so that will be cool,’’ she said.
She'll have a tree planted in her honor at City Hall, too.
‘‘I can’t believe they’re doing that,’’ she said.
But she'll also get to spend time with her family, including her two sisters and two brothers. She’s also been missing Iggy’s clam shack and the Twin Oaks restaurant in Cranston.
Shortly after Culpo won the title, Miss Pennsylvania resigned her crown, saying the pageant had been rigged. Organizers say she was upset over the decision to allow transgender contestants to enter. The hubbub has since died down.
‘‘It’s not true, so it kind of just got brushed aside,’’ Culpo said.
This will be Culpo’s first time in the Bristol parade; she’s never even attended. The town’s celebration began in 1785 with what organizers call ‘‘patriotic exercises’’ — the first was a speech by a local reverend. It’s thought that the procession of residents to the patriotic exercises morphed into a parade.
Lavey, who as parade chairman oversees all details of the route, was watching the pageant when Culpo won. His first thought was: We've got to get her. He said he was on the phone with pageant officials the next morning, trying to make it happen.
This year’s chief marshal is a Bristol town councilor, Antonio Teixeira. Normally, there’s no greater celebrity.
‘‘In Bristol, it’s considered to be the highest honor you can get,’’ Lavey said.
A reporter asked if there’s a chance Miss USA would trump even the chief marshal this year in terms of star power.
‘‘No comment,’’ Lavey said.