Thursday, July 5, 2007

Happenings: The SCV Fourth of July Parade



It was with hope and desperation that a young parade watcher asked his mother “Was that the last float?” He wasn’t the only one running low on enthusiasm: lasting two hours in 90-degree heat, the Santa Clarita Fourth of July Parade tested the resolve of all but the most patriotic Claritans. This is unfortunate, as the parade is over seven-decades old and the closest thing to a tradition this valley can claim. Like childbirth, it is not a pleasant experience—agony tempered by brief glimmers of joy—but it’s certainly an important one.

Per usual, most of Santa Clarita didn’t even show up. While neither of our local papers put a firm number on the crowd, I'd say it couldn't have been more than a few thousand strong. On my block there were scarcely 70. However, Leon Worden[1] informed me that there were "25,000" in attendance. This figure would suggest that one out of every six residents showed up[2], so I'll give Mr. Worden the benefit of the doubt and assume he mistakenly typed an extra zero.

What the crowd lacked in numbers it did not make up for in enthusiasm.

Sure, it’s hot, and there’s almost no shade, and the floats are basically just trucks carrying waving city officials. But this is beside the point. It’s our duty to go, dammit. Indeed, those of you who found “better things to do” on the Fourth should learn a lesson from the mother of the little boy I mentioned, the one whining about the parade. She marched him, his brothers, and a newborn baby to this spectacle of spectacles, planted them on the curb, made one of her kids hold a beach umbrella over them the entire time, and told them to shut up unless they were going to say “God Bless America.” If that’s not what Independence Day is about, I don’t know what is.

Still, I recognize that we all show our love of country (and valley) in different ways. So, to the hundred-thousand-plus residents of Valencia, Newhall, Canyon Country, and Saugus who didn’t see fit to show up, I’ll brief you on what you missed.

FLOATS
Obligatory were four items on every “float” (usually a flat-bed truck or trailer): (1)American flags, (2)Waving children shrilly shrieking “HAPPY FOURTH OF JULY”, (3)Balloons, and (4)Hay bales. Items 1-3 are fine, appropriate even, but why the hay bales?

Recipe for success: this float exemplifies effective use of the four mandatory elements.

Unfortunately, this uniformity made it difficult to recall what the floats of any particular groups looked like even seconds after they passed. Thus, to the few standouts of the parade go the IHeartSCV Awards for best floats.

Trash Band, with their mammoth-tricycle-caveman-jungle float receives top honors. Their production in no way related to the theme of the parade (“20 Years of Cityhood”) and had even less to do with commemorating American Independence. But, to borrow a phrase from Old School, it was glorious.

Taking honorable mention was the float for the Santa Clarita Valley Senior Center. It does my heart a lot of good to see our community’s elders braving the midday sun, calling attention to how old they are, and still managing to smile more than most of the parade spectators.

I don't even know where to begin here. There's the giraffe neck, the risque bathing suit, the troubling lack of joints on the arms and legs...


CHILD SWARMS

Alarmingly large groups of children thronged the streets. Some were Boy Scouts, others played soccer together, while still others liked to perform back-flips on asphalt. If you’re having a hard time imagining these multitudes of children united under the banner of extracurricular activity, picture one annoyingly precocious kid marinating in high self-esteem. Now multiply that kid by 100, and you begin to get an idea of what comprised a good quarter of the parade.

In jarring contrast to the child swarms were the child idols. These were little girls and boys who had won one of the myriad pageants held in SCV (e.g., Runner-up at the Miss corner of McBean and Old Orchard Parkway Competition[3]). The prerequisites here were a massive chiffon gown that could be draped over the back of a convertible and the ability to smile while enduring the early stages of heat-stroke.

CARS CARRYING THE (QUASI-)IMPORTANT
A must at all parades, over-priced cars carried over-important people. Generally, there was a relationship between how important the person was perceived to be and the niceness of the car in which they were chauffeured. We saw the Mayor, State Assemblyman Smyth (hair greased as generously as always) and, of course, Grand Marshall Buck McKeon.


Mayor Marsha McLean was seen bedecked in flags, while Congressman Buck McKeon chose a backyard barbecue ensemble: T-shirt, shorts, and cowboy hat.

GROUPS VIGOROUSLY SELF-PROMOTING
Finally, we had businesses and groups showing their patriotism by getting free publicity. No one understood the publicity game better than “NorthPark.com”. They invested in a massive blow-up American Eagle and in three Macy’s Parade-style floating stars, complete with human anchors. They had dozens of people marching, many in a human line bearing letters that spelled out N-O-R-T-H-P-A-R-K-.com. Being hopelessly naïve, I thought these were just some very spirited residents of the well-funded Northpark community. In fact, they were very spirited members of the well-funded NorthPark Community Church. A Catholic myself, I have to admit that our modest St. Vincent de Paul Society Van—the same one used to carry charitable donations to the poor—was hopelessly humble relative to the display put on by the Northparkers. Well-played, NorthPark Community Church, well-played.

Despite the marketing, however, there were some genuinely nice moments when people clapped for veterans of war, including one who served in WWII. Flags were given out by several groups, and they had been mounted on the street lamps all down Lyons Avenue. People were generally quite neighborly to those around them as well, though we sat by a family whose matriarch informed her granddaughter “It’s OK to boo that one” when the PFLAG (Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) car passed by[4]. As a certain S. Miller once said, "Santa Clarita is nothing if not open-minded."

Finally, not to be outdone by what we like to call “The Other Parade”[5] in Southern California, a panel was assembled to award official prizes, which you can view at Santa Clarita 4th of July Parade official website[6]. The Filipino-American Association of SCV won the coveted Sweepstakes Prize. It appears that Friends of Hart Park, taking second, weren’t friendly enough for the judge’s taste.

Awed as your eyes now are by the spectacle, the majesty, and the glory that are the Santa Clarita Fourth of July Parade, I trust you’ll be going next year, and I look forward to seeing you there.

NOTES:
[1] Leon Worden, a power-player in the online world of SCV, manages websites for such groups as SCVTV, the SCV Historical Society, and, of course, the parade. You can visit him at http://www.scvleon.com/
[2] Yes, I actually did the math. Our valley's population stands at 151,088 according to Santa Clarita Population and Demographic Resources. To be fair, perhaps there's a contingent of out-of-town parade devotees that numbers in the tens of thousands and I just didn't see any of them.
[3] Despite popular rumor, not an actual competition.
[4] Interestingly, while two floats played “YMCA”, this was not one of them.
[5] It involves roses.
[6] http://www.scvleon.com/parade/

6 comments:

Cassie McGinnis said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
VeraKB said...

Hey, great summary of the parade! We were there, braving the heat with our umbrellas and water bottles, and had a very similar experience. Didn't the parade seem much longer than those in years past?

We too had a chuckle at the neighboring comments about the Pflag entry, such as threats of creating a heterosexual float to enter in the parade next year. Can't we just keep sexual orientation (gay OR straight) out of our neighborhood parade??? Young kids are watching!!!

Our son was delivered at Henry Mayo in '84, and he went to Valencia High too...wonder if you know each other. Anyway, good blog, I'll be looking forward to your next post.

Vera

Anonymous said...

I heart SCV, I was at this supposed "parade" and it is an insult to call some flat bed trucks and hay bails a Parade. I appreciate your comments and I hope that you will continue to expose the underbelly of the suburban hell we call SC!

Carol said...

As a member of the parade committee with a good sense of humor, I wanted to point out that the hay bales are there for safety - so people don't go flying off the truck when they aren't paying attention (happens more than you think....). Great review of the parade, seriously! Having my own opinion of the pageant people, I laughed out loud at your "imaginary" competition... a parade without beauty queens would be a wonderful thing.
Thanks for posting - I'm going to send the link to the rest of the parade committee for a good laugh! See you next July!

Jeff said...

My only problem with the parade was that it seemed to start later than last year.

Really it should have started by 8:30 am at the latest.

Nice review though!

Lillian said...

I too am a Parade Committee member and rolling with laughter. Some of your descriptions are overwhelming. There are some things better left unsaid. Great Blog.