Of course if you bought your calendar in this country, the Fourth of July is already marked - perhaps in capital letters with a jaunty American flag. And the date is even more special to folks around here because thousands of families begin their Independence Day festivities with the Kiwanis parade in Danville.
This year, 2008, marks the 50th anniversary of the celebration. It began in 1958 as "Hay Days," four days of festivities with a parade on the last morning to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the founding of Danville in 1858. Yes, 2008 is also Danville's sesquicentennial. (Say sesquicentennial 10 times, fast.) So obviously a big party is in order.
The Town of Danville and the Kiwanis Club of the San Ramon Valley have been on top of it, with cooperation from the calendar that landed July 4 on a Friday this year, and they are planning a two-day celebration. Festivities begin at 4 p.m. on Thursday, July 3, with a big community picnic on the Town Green in front of the library on Front Street to celebrate the town's 150th birthday.
Simultaneously a party at the Museum of the San Ramon Valley will celebrate the 50th anniversary of Hay Days, with carnival games - old-fashioned and new - ice cream and more. The Thursday evening farmers market will still take place, and manager Max Timms is excited to be part of the celebration. A miniature train will be set up across the street in the parking lot behind the Danville Hotel. And hayrides will transport people from the Museum location on a big loop to the Town Green and back again.
That evening will also see a kids-and-pets costume parade, a 1950s bathing suit show, a horse demonstration and the coronation of Miss Pioneer Belle. A little later in the Veterans Memorial Building, there will be an old-time talent show.
This year's Fourth of July parade theme will be "Celebrating Hay Days." The parade will begin at 9 a.m., which is one hour earlier than usual, to escape the heat of the day and also because more entries are expected. I talked to chairman David Romano on Saturday, just as he was updating the Kiwanis Web site information about the parade. He was excited about a new entry, the California Historical Artillery Society, which is known for its Civil War re-enactments.
"They will have about 20 horses and wagons, it's really cool," he said. And appropriate since the time frame the group re-enacts is right around 1858 when Danville was becoming a community, with its shops and services mostly located on Front Street.
Romano said Kiwanis is making a push this year for parade entries to be entertaining. That is even more important than following the Hay Days theme, he said. For instance, there will be a Chinese lion dance team, which has nothing to do with Hay Days but is immensely entertaining.
"The hometown stuff is huge," Romano also noted. Such as the famous Sycamore Lawn Mower Brigade. Hokey? A tad. Entertaining? Definitely. My favorite move is when they all dash into Norm's Place for a quick shot of sustenance.
The Kiwanis has also engaged the Fabulous CruiseTones, a popular Bay Area band that plays songs from the late 1950s. It will entertain at the community picnic on the Town Green on the 3rd and also be in the parade on the 4th.
And what would a sesquicentennial be without a written record of the past 150 years - Danville's founding, its agricultural life, the railroad's impact, the war years, then the arrival of the freeway and the suburban growth debates that continue today. The town commissioned the book, "Vintage Danville: 150 Years of Memories," which was written by Beverly Lane and Laura Grinstead. Lane was especially excited about the "new" old photographs people loaned her to be included in the keepsake coffee table book. Both the town and the Museum are taking pre-orders at $35 plus tax and $8 shipping and handling. Or books can be picked up at the Museum after July 1.
Anyway, it all sounds like an exciting two-day party. I'm exhausted just writing about it. But we'll have Saturday and Sunday to recover.
-Dolores Fox Ciardelli can be e-mailed at editor@DanvilleWeekly.com