WEST ATHENS – When the first Fourth of July parade made its way down Valley Road with kazoo bands, flowers, peace signs and zany floats in the mid-1970s, it was all about peace, love and understanding, say people who have lived there all their lives.

The annual parade and counterculture play by the In Spite of Life Players made for a real Independence Day celebration — a little irreverent, but never irrelevant to the political times.

Then, about five years ago, the mood shifted from good clean fun to drunkenness, disrespect, drugs and debris, according to Valley Road residents Sylvia Judd and David Avery.

That behavior will have to stop, say Avery and Judd and many others, including the people who participate in the parade and the play.

“Everybody likes the parade — it’s just the stupid people that come to see it,” said Judd, who has lived on Valley Road for 67 of her 69 years. “It used to be wonderful. Now it’s getting so you don’t even dare to step out your front door, afraid you’ll get knocked down.”

Underage drinking, unsafe use of all-terrain vehicles, hard drugs, fights and general disrespect for local residents has driven them to say that if such behavior occurs again this year, they will go to the Board of Selectmen to put an end to it.

“Last year, they pushed her right in the chest,” Avery said of Judd, who said she was hit and her granddaughter was struck by unruly parade-goers.

Avery said Valley Road residents have found hypodermic needles and seen people naked in front of their children and grandchildren.

“It’s too many young kids coming in, is what the problem is,” Avery said. “They don’t have no respect; they drink, some of them are minors shooting up with needles, taking pills, and it’s wrong.”

Avery and Judd met recently with three women from the parade and play community: Gail Edwards, Anna Freeman and Abby Shahn.

“It’s a dilemma,” Freeman, one of the event organizers, said in an e-mail. “I don’t know if I have the authority — or want to — cancel the whole thing since it’s such a long tradition; close to 37 years.

“However, I don’t want to offend the folk in West Athens who have always been so good to us since the inception of the hippie invasion.”

Edwards agrees and proposed an action plan to keep everyone safe, while still having fun on July Fourth.

“The people of West Athens have shown us all great generosity, hospitality and kindness by opening up their small village to host this event and providing a space to hold the play,” Edwards writes in an open letter to parade-goers.

“It now seems that the unacceptable behavior of a few has endangered the good will of some of the townspeople and threatens the continuation of this yearly event.”

Edwards has create a seven-point plan for this year’s festivities:

No trash left behind. Trash and broken bottles left along the roadsides and in streams are not acceptable.

No peeling out or squealing tires.

No children left unattended.

No underage drinking.

No hard drugs.

No firearms or weapons of any sort.

No violence. Aggressive and disrespectful behavior will not be tolerated. “This is an old-style love and peace event. We all want to keep it that way,” Edwards wrote.

Access to Valley Road from Chapman Ridge Road will be closed at 11 a.m. Sunday. The parade starts at noon.

The road will become a one-way road only, toward the gravel pit until after the parade. Parking on both sides is prohibited.