This month we celebrated the 4th of July, our Independence Day. I have always enjoyed this holiday but looking back, this last 4th of July was different and not as wonderful as some in the past.
For many years I created a "float" for Danville's 4th of July parade. It consisted of three decorated vehicles and several entertainers. Every year "Sandi & Stevie" (professional children's entertainers) performed and some years others joined us. Guide Dogs walked with us a couple of times when the weather wasn't too hot. The National Park Service "walked" our VW "dalmation" dressed as Eugene O'Neill's famous dog Blemie. A group of young girls from Diablo Gymnastics tumbled and twirled the entire route despite the heat. Last but not least "Wigged Out" in their outrageous costumes did hilarious spoofs and made us laugh. Everyone performed in one way or another and the crowd was entertained. Twice our entry won first place in our division.
This year I chose not to do a float. I was officially retired now. I just wanted to sit with my family and friends and enjoy the experience of the parade as a viewer. For the first time I put my chairs out the night before and claimed them the next morning about an hour before the parade started. It was hot as always but I sat under the shade of a big tree. I had a cooler with ice water and some snacks plus a red, white and blue umbrella and some American flags. Close by were my son, daughter-in-law, son-in-law, and four teenage grandchildren. My daughter, a nurse, was at home asleep after working the nightshift. She couldn't make the parade this year. Sandi of "Sandi and Stevie" joined us.
At the beginning of the parade there were vehicles full of government officials and military men. Yes, the helicopter was impressive. The biggest and the best of the floats was clearly Safeway who did a phenomenal job with a colorful and creative display of fruits and vegetables as well as a backyard barbecue. Trader Joe's was smaller but also nicely done. Zonkali and the Cruisetones performed well musically and were very enjoyable. So were the Disney princesses who let the kids get their picture taken with them.
There weren't very many marching bands and some that marched didn't perform at least not near us. There were some "garage" bands that were enjoyable. But overall there wasn't much music. There was little dancing. In short there was little entertainment. Gone was the lawnmower brigade that I looked forward to watching. Gone was the shopping cart group that was so unique. No flag team performed. No dancers and few animals. Where did all the horses with their riders in fancy attire go? This parade was downright disappointing.
There were others issues that really bothered me - like the group that threw water bottles from their truck. That is a parade no-no. All freebies are suppose to be handed to the crowd by going to the curb to curtail youngsters from coming too close to moving vehicles. I cringed a few times. Where were the parents of the elementary age kids who were halfway into the street and better yet where were the parade security officials? I never saw them patrol in our area. Not only were kids loose but people had their chairs at least a third of the way into the street.
Another pet peeve of mine is the bicycles, scooters, skateboarders and in-line skaters who breeze through the crowd during the parade mindless of the people sitting or standing. These activities need to be curtailed. When an accident happens (as it will) then these activities will be banned along the parade route. Let's not wait and let the ban start with the next parade.
My other safety concern was the young people who were very crowded on the back of trucks without anything to hold on to. If their truck stops short, these yongsters are at risk of falling off. It's not a far fall but it's onto pavement and can result in a serious injury. This needs tighter rules pronto. Not that I want to see the Little League behind bars…but I don't really want to see the Little League at all…unless they perform. Do a chant, wave in unison anything. And since when is squirting oversized water guns at the crowd an approved parade activity. What was Kiwanis (the parade's organization) thinking? While some enjoyed it, others darted to avoid it.
And to add to my frustration there was a lot of distance between many of the entries.
So when next July 4th rolls around, will I get up early and come to downtown Danville to be hot and sweaty and bored? I think I will have to consider once more creating some entertainment for all those people sitting expectantly along the parade route. They deserve it. Those of us who know how to do it should be out there. Those who don't should sit on the sidelines and watch.
And yes, I know it's all about patriotism and acknowledging the vets so let's throw the biggest, best parade in their honor and let them enjoy it from the porches in front of the Veteran's Hall built specifically for that purpose.
The rifles at the end should be muffled. Some people simply left early and others were scrambling to get their small children and dogs away. I'd like to see everyone sit still until the end and do an orderly exit. And don't let the kids run into the street for the shotgun shells. They were so close to the guns that I feared for their hearing.
I like marching and music and rah, rah, rah not blah, blah, blah. Come on Kiwanis and parade participants. You can let these entries know that they need to entertain and they need to obey the rules. Get more volunteers to staff the parade route and enforce the rules you've already got and please make a few more.
My first chance to sit and watch an entire parade ……..I'd give it a C.