Community pride will no doubt be on full display when the Upper Arlington Civic Association hosts July 4 festivities while honoring the Spirit of '76.

Community pride will no doubt be on full display when the Upper Arlington Civic Association hosts July 4 festivities while honoring the Spirit of '76.

For 82 years -- since 1935 -- Upper Arlington has held a July 4 parade that some say set the standard for Independence Day celebrations in central Ohio.

In every one of those years, men and boys have led the parade by donning Colonial period costumes and re-enacting Archibald Willard's painting, "The Spirit of '76," which depicts musicians marching on a Revolutionary War battlefield.

This year, the UA Spirit of '76 will lead the parade, with a fourth generation of Murphys, Millisors and Longs -- who are related to the Murphys through marriage -- once again picking up instruments and carrying on the tradition.

Third-generation Spirit of '76 members Jim and Bob Long and Link and Mark Murphy will serve as the parade's grand marshals.

"We're not as talented as our parents, but we try," 62-year-old Link Murphy said. "It's just a wonderful feeling to be part of such a great community.

"It's a great honor to be selected as grand marshals. Really, it's an honor for the generations before us."

According to the grand marshals, Upper Arlington's July 4 celebration sprung from tragedy.

In 1934, a local couple was killed in a traffic accident while attempting to return home from a celebration outside the community. That's when Link's and Mark Murphy's grandfather, Dr. Link Murphy, led the staging of Upper Arlington's first Independence Day parade.

Busy organizing the parade, Murphy's grandfather didn't suit up for the inaugural Spirit of '76's tromp, or that of 1936.

But by 1937, the elder Link Murphy joined the march as the flag-bearer.

The tradition has been part of every Upper Arlington July 4 parade since, with members of the Millisor, Murphy and Long families filling the roles of drummers, fife-players and flag-bearers.

As children, this year's grand marshals were front and center for the parades, either finding seats on the curb to watch their grandfathers, fathers and uncles pass by, or riding in various floats.

They all joined the Spirit of '76 around their freshman or sophomore years in high school, with Jim Long starting in 1966-67, Bob Long in 1968-69, Link Murphy in 1970-71 and Mark Murphy in 1972-73.

"For our family, it's been a real privilege and honor to be part of it," said Bob Long, son of James and Jeretta (Murphy) Long. "There's so much to the parade and this is a component of it.

"My grandfather (Dr. Link Murphy) really wanted this community event to be focused on family and tradition. He passed it down to his son (Dr. Robert Murphy) and my dad. It's just continued to pass from generation to generation and it's a great thing."

Thus far, 63-year-old Bob Long has marched as a Spirit of '76 member in six different decades, and he hopes he can make it at least seven in a few years.

"We grew up on Westwood Avenue and, for me, not only is it marching and being part of the parade, but it's coming down to my neighborhood with the parade route," he said. "It always feels like I'm home."

His brother, the Rev. Jim Long, recounted how nervous he was the first year he took up the drum -- the entry-level Spirit of '76 duty -- noting it was during the Vietnam War when the country was divided along political and social lines.

But he said the July 4 celebration has always united the community.

"My grandfather always said this was an important tradition to carry on," Jim Long said. "There was patriotism for the history of the country and the history of Upper Arlington. There was deep appreciation for this community."

Among the many highlights over the years, Jim Long said, was marching alongside his son, Jimmy Long, and his nephew, Bobby Murphy, when they were teenagers. He noted he cherishes a photo of them in the parade, which also features 2017 UACA Parade Chairman Tyler Millisor.

"It was a special moment," Jim Long said. "I really love those guys and it was good to be with them on a tradition that was passed down."

The "baby" of the grand marshal group, 59-year-old Mark Murphy, said it's "been an honor and very touching" that the UACA has allowed the Spirit of '76 to continue to lead the parade. He added that the Upper Arlington July 4 celebration has been a can't-miss event since childhood.

"When we were little, the Fourth of July was right up there with Christmas Day for us," he said.

Mark Murphy added that he'll proudly ride as a parade grand marshal, thinking back on his late grandfather, mother and father, as well as his other relatives who have marched in the Spirit of '76 and the community at large that always turns out to celebrate together.

"It has been an honor to be able to represent our community by having a Murphy, Long and Millisor involved in the Upper Arlington Civic Association parade as chairman of parade since 1935 and marchers in the Spirit of the '76 since 1937," Mark Murphy said. "Upper Arlington has many great traditions and we are proud that the Murphys and Longs, as part of the Spirit of '76, have been part of the history of the parade."

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