Judge's Couch: A Bristol parade tradition

It's just an old couch atop scaffolding at Al Sampson's house, which sits on Hope Street along the Bristol Fourth of July parade route.

But it's a tradition that paradegoers and performers alike, look forward to every year.

"Years ago we took a couch out of the house when I was remodeling it and we put it up on the staging and that's how it became 'The Judge's Couch,'" Sampson said.

As part of the Independence Day fun, Sampson and his friends hold up scores, rating the performers as the parade marches by his house.

Sampson tweaks the scaffolding every year with new messages, and every year people look forward to seeing it.

"He did an outstanding job with all his friends. Class act," said paradegoer Rick Lavey.

This year, it was a parade fixture with a purpose.

Sampson and his friends used it to make a political statement of sorts, speaking out against the 10-cent tolls on the Sakonnet River Bridge.

"We're the people's voice. We like to express our opinions as you can see with the signs and stuff like that and they like it," said paradegoer Bill Ferrieri.

Ferrieri was just one of thousands enjoying the parade on Thursday.

Some came as early as 1 a.m. to get the perfect spot to take in the fun and visit with old friends.

"You see people you haven't seen in years that walk by, that want to stop, want to comment. It's just nice. It's a lot of fun," said parade goer Debbie Ferrieri.

"You can't beat Rhode Island. I don't care where you go in the country. We got the best beaches. We got the best food. The people are wonderful. You gotta' celebrate once in a while and this is the perfect day to do it."