Monday, July 5, 2010

Happenings: The Parade that Barely Was

The Grand Marshall of the Santa Clarita Fourth of July Parade was silent film actor William S. Hart[1]. Though alive in our hearts, Bill is thoroughly dead in the traditional, corporeal sense, so we made do with his likeness and someone dressed as the iconic screen cowboy instead. Rather like the Grand Marshall, this year’s parade was more of a spectral suggestion of the past than a vital presence. As one parade-goer summed things up: “That was it?”

We took our seats near the yellow, Victorian-style shops on Lyons Avenue. The morning was cool and slightly overcast, making for unusually bearable viewing conditions. Tens of people shared the block with us, and everyone was more spread out than usual since a seat in the shade wasn’t essential. We sat. We waited.

The arrival of four horsemen is usually interpreted as a sign of the end, but this morning, four members of the LA County Sheriff’s Mounted Posse signaled the parade had begun. We greeted the parade’s color guard with the resonant honk of vuvuzelas[2], and bits of applause drifted from the diffuse crowd. The four horsemen were tailed by every vehicle that the Sheriff’s and Fire Departments have in their possession, apparently ready to squash any minor Armageddons.

Mayor Weste is greeted by the trumpeting of a vuvuzela.

In the long-standing tradition, miniature American flags were handed out to everyone as the parade got underway. Small children dashed between a truck bearing thousands of flags and a crowd of grabby hands. Other bits of free patriotica included red and blue Mardi Gras beads and delicious Welsh cakes with white chocolate, cranberries, and blueberries[3]. The latter did much to ease those Anglo-American tensions that inevitably rise on Independence Day. Commercial entries like Sports Clips and Newhall Coffee Roasting Company passed out coupons and coffee, respectively, and NorthPark Community Church passed out handy guides to redemption and salvation. This was a stunning change for the church which, in years past, has had hundreds of its members marching to the beat of contemporary Christian pop with enormous inflated stars, eagles, and air dancer figures.

Nine children, nine flags, one Vampire T-shirt.

Preaching a more political message were the SCV Congress of Republicans, Democratic Alliance for Action, and SCV Tea Party Patriots. The dems were the most overtly political, carrying “Jerry Brown: Governor 2010” and other campaign signs. How better to unite neighbors and than by carrying tacky, partisan political posters? The Tea Party float was a mish-mash of historical reenactments. A Betsy Ross impersonator sewed the American flag whilst others dressed as Benjamin Franklin and George Washington admired her work, and Thomas Jefferson drafted the Declaration of Independence at his desk. The group was conveyed on a trailer hitched to a historically accurate white truck.

The rest of the parade was marked by variations of a few themes. Antique cars were driven by antique Claritans. A younger crowd drove jeeps, including a fat idiot who sat on the roof rack of his Wrangler and steered the car with his feet[4]. Perhaps he can be persuaded to stay home in Canyon Country next year. Local officials passed by in convertibles or on trucks, though Mayor Laurene Weste preferred the Wells Fargo Stage Coach and The Signal was represented by a flag-bearing hand held out of a limousine window. Pageant winners were uniformly displayed from the backs of red or white convertibles with crudely fashioned posters displaying their names and title mounted to the door. And interspersed in the sea of cars, cub scouts, beauty queens, and horses were a handful of truck-drawn trailers adorned with balloons and masquerading as floats. A few of them actually recognized the parade’s theme of “Movietown USA.”

Yes, he's really driving the Jeep with his feet. This is especially disturbing in light of the car accident that killed a mother and injured six children at the Town Center fireworks show--and the fact that kids run freely through the parade route.

In short, this year’s efforts were extraordinarily perfunctory—even by Claritan standards. Attendance still remains mandatory, as it’s important to clap for veterans and outwardly display appreciation for our freedom and independence. However, it’s clear that the parade needs to fight its gradual descent into nothing more than a stream of cars moving down streets at one-tenth their normal speed. The Parade Committee can do only so much; the people of the SCV must work together to bring bands, real floats, and perhaps even a little--but not too much--joy to this oldest Claritan rite. Until that time comes, parades will continue to pass not with a bang, but a whimper.

[1]Parade line-up
[2]Vuvuzelas, those very loud horns from the World Cup in South Africa, were purchased from the better of two soccer shops in Old Town Newhall. This pumped an outrageous $15 into the local economy; you’re welcome, City.
The Welsh Baker


Newhall Coffee Roasting Company said...

Thanks for the mention -- really hope you enjoy your coffee!

Cheryl said...

Perhaps the parade would have been closer to the usual standard if the powers that be had chosen to have it on Saturday morning rather than Sunday, as many other communities around the country did. There was no large Northpark presence because they were, as I'm sure many other regular participants were, at church.

Lindsey said...

I liked the vuvuzela girl, and the boy who took that photograph.

Lindsey said...

And what was the name of that Welsh bakery that was handing out those delicious Welsh cakes? I have to go to their bakery and buy more when I get home to the SCV!

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