WOLFEBORO, N.H. – Mitt Romney celebrated the Fourth of July by participating in a small-town parade in New Hampshire, telling residents they must work together to build strong families and a strong economy to keep America alive.
Romney and wife Ann took a break from vacationing at their nearby, lakeside estate to join in the parade in Wolfeboro.
“My heart is full this morning,” said Romney, dressed casually in a navy polo shirt. “I love our flag. ... The world needs a strong America, an America with strong homes and families, an America with a strong economy. That’s the America we must have and we must build.”
Romney and his entire family – sons, their wives and all 18 grandchildren-- paraded through the center of the New England hamlet, their only official public appearance during a week-long family break from the campaign trail.
It won't be the first time Romney has been spotted around Wolfeboro since he arrived last weekend. Members have come into town by family boat to get ice cream. They’ve also spent their annual vacation playing volleyball, riding water scooters and lounging with the children on their personal beach.
And though Romney is now running against President Obama, he and family members have stuck to many of their normal routines including attending church.
Still, the vacation hasn't been all fun and games for the likely Republican presidential nominee. Romney huddled Tuesday with his top advisers, including his campaign manager and the aide overseeing his vice presidential search. His top strategist was in town shooting video for new TV ads.
Obama canceled his family’s annual summer vacation on Martha's Vineyard. However, he spent the past weekend at Camp David before returning Wednesday to Washington for the holiday.
The president participated in a naturalization ceremony at the White House for 25 active-duty service members and is expected to join first lady Michelle Obama on the South Lawn and deliver remarks as part of a Fourth of July celebration.
While Romney and his family haven't encouraged media coverage of their ice cream outings and sports event, they also haven't shied away from it.
"You all have your life jackets?" Romney asked the handful of grandchildren who crowded onto his boat Monday night after the trip to the picturesque town's ice cream store. His usually coifed hair windblown and his face tanned, Romney hopped behind the wheel of the boat and piloted it away from the dock himself.
His vacation ends Sunday when he's scheduled to head to New York for fundraising events -- and resume his campaign schedule full-time.
Christopher Laible and the Associated Press contributed to this report.