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VPIS Independence Day Reading Will Occur on July 4 at Noon

The Falls Church Village Preservation and Improvement Society (VPIS) will host their 40th annual Independence Day Readings on July 4 at 12:00 p.m. at the Falls Church Episcopal. 

In the ceremony, which will last approximately 75 minutes, attendees are invited to read passages of the Fairfax Resolves, Virginia Declaration of Rights, Bill of Rights, Declaration of Independence, Emancipation Proclamation, Pledge of Allegiance and the 13th, 14th, 15th and 19th amendments to the United States Constitution.

Lou Olom and Sue Bachtel, former VPIS presidents, founded the event in 1984 after noticing similarities between the Fairfax Resolves, adopted in 1774, and the Virginia Bill of Rights, adopted in 1776. Keith Thurston, who serves on the VPIS Board of Directors, noted these local documents helped frame others that took effect in the rest of the colonies.

“It’s through those connections of our [local] history to the national history, we wanted to highlight that and create the Independence Day remembrance,” Thurston said.

The event has taken place in different venues around the city throughout four decades, including City Hall and The Falls Church Episcopal. The 2023 iteration will return to the Falls Church Episcopal, where according to Thurston the Declaration of Independence was read at the start of the Revolutionary War. 

Thurston estimates roughly 70 to 100 people attend the event each year. From the crowd, one person “chairs” the event, providing some historical context. Attendees take turns reading a section, passing around the documents until all of them are read.

“Whoever attends are the people that read [the documents], and that’s very meaningful,” Thurston said.

Thurston and the VPIS believe the Independence Day Readings are important because the documents remind people of the roots of the holiday.

“You’ll see Fourth of July sales, you’ll see fireworks, you’ll see concerts, but rarely do they include the original history of the founding of the country,” he said. “That’s what our event does. Our event goes back to the original grievances that we had with the monarch and the lack of representation in the parliament and the grievances over taxation and lack of representation. And from those grievances became a movement for freedom and independence.”

Thurston hopes the Independence Day Readings will provide participants with a renewed sense of patriotism and appreciation for the sacrifices that early Americans made.

“It’s important to remind people of the circumstances of the founding of our country and the reason why,” Thurston said. “And not only do they walk out with a better understanding, but they walk out with a great deal of refreshment, patriotism and hope.”

Although the event has taken place every year, the VPIS had to move the reading to a Zoom call during the Covid-19 pandemic. Eventually, it shifted to an outdoor in-person reading at the Falls Church Episcopal, allowing people to space themselves out.

“Obviously, there were fewer participants during the pandemic, but our hardcore people still showed up and knew what to expect,” he said. “And we’re grateful to be able to participate.”

In recent years, the VPIS added the 13th, 14th, 15th and 19th amendments to the United States Constitution – those pertaining to equality – to the program. They also added documents such as the Emancipation Proclamation to the event.

“We know where the constitution got it right, and we know where there were omissions because of the lack of agreement between the states at that time, between the colonies,” Thurston said. “And those have slowly been adjusted with new constitutional amendments for equality.”

Those looking for more information about the Independence Day Readings can visit