Everything You Always Wanted To Know About The Greatest Parade On Earth. We're talking, of course, about the Santa Clarita Valley Fourth of July Parade.
This year's version will be held on Saturday, which coincidentally, is the fourth of July (you'd be amazed at how many times we get asked when the parade is...).
The big news is that it will start an hour earlier for lots of reasons, most importantly the weather. The L.A. County Sheriff's Mounted Posse Color Guard (stand up and salute the flag, please) will launch the parade promptly at 9 a.m.
As my co-workers and I were discussing this morning, the Founding Fathers must not have been considering California's hot summers when they decided to declare our independence, or they surely would have chosen a cooler month for all this parading. Just because we didn't join the union until 73 years later.....
Anyway, the parade is a unique animal unto itself. It is not underwritten or the responsibility of any city, county or company, but it has carried on with unsinkable community spirit for 77 years, run by unpaid, but highly skilled, volunteers.
This hardy band of volunteers get together sometime in the spring of every year, pick a theme and send out applications. They are organized as a nonprofit, so there is an umbrella organization, and there is a website (scvparade.com) where one can get history, applications, information and see pictures - even moving ones - of previous parades.
The parade begins at Hart Park (right by the Veterans Historical Plaza) and goes down Main Street, turns left on Lyons Avenue, then turns right on Orchard Village and ends on 16th Street, where floats, horses, marching groups, etc. disburse until it's time to pick up trophies at noon over at Trocadero restaurant.
Since breakfast is the most important meal of the day, you want to make sure you do your parade-watching on a full stomach. Starting at 6:30, the Rotary Club will be serving their traditional pancake breakfast in the parking lot of Roger Dunn Golf at 5th and Main. All monies raised benefit Rotary philanthropic projects.
Some of you have asked about where the best places are for parade-watching. It all depends on your desired viewing experience.
If you want to have the TV-vantage point, find a spot near the Canyon Theatre Guild, at the corner of Sixth and Main Streets. That's where parade chairman Leon Worden will be filming the festivities for broadcast on Time Warner Channel 20, ATT U-verse Channel 99 and SCVTV.com. Just like that big 'ol New Year's Day parade, you will be able to see this parade over and over and over...
If comfort and company is your style, then one of the best spots is the patio of Trocadero, the restaurant at the corner of Main and Market Streets in the heart of Old Town Newhall. Food is good, drinks are cold and wet and bathrooms are a slow stroll through the air conditioning. Parking is convenient, right off Railroad Avenue.
The blocks surrounding Market and Main have been undergoing streetscape upgrading, where bricks, board, boulders and benches have been installed along with new trees to spruce up the looks of the place and make it more pedestrian-friendly. The Trocadero side is almost done and work is well underway on the Workboot Warehouse side. When this project is finished, it's going to be beautiful.
Just a block further down is the parade judges' stand. Participants put on their best shows here, so that area might be good to aim for. Judges will be on the flatbed truck parked in front of Jasmine's Bakery. Make sure to yell "hi" to Connie Worden, Leon's mom, who has been helping the committee for a long, long time. Sometimes the judges share their donuts, too.
If you have Spanish-speaking guests in your parade entourage, then you want to be near the turn from Main Street to Lyons Avenue, where Bruce Fortine and his lovely wife, Gloria Mercado-Fortine will be announcing. Bruce will be making announcements in English, while Gloria will be interpreting in Spanish. Make sure to ask Bruce what the COC mascot looked like as a kitten.
Crowds tend to thin out a little bit as the parade moves down Lyons, but there is shade to be had from street trees and some businesses in the area that have outdoor seating. Some entrepreneurial folks may set up stands with merchandise to tempt you to part with a few dollars.(last year the Hart High boosters were selling some cool stuff near the corner of Arcadia and Lyons in the coffee shop parking lot; alas, that coffee shop closed over the summer).
Speaking of sales, you will see silly string for sale along the route, even though it is AGAINST THE LAW to fire anything at or from the parade. (Seriously, there is a city ordinance. We even had to tell Magic Mountain not to fire confetti or ping pong balls from their float) That pesky aerosol fluff carries chemicals that eat the paint right off of cars and most of the cars in the parade are personal projects that cost their owners piles of money and years of their time. That's why it's illegal. You may buy the stuff, but you must take it home and aim it at each other later. Remember to play nice.
Approaching the corner of Orchard Village, there is a Starbucks and a La Salsa restaurant with outdoor seating. This corner seems to attract the biggest crowd because of its great vantage points, ease of access (hint: don't park in the Starbucks/Ralphs parking lot, you'll be stuck forever, park across the street instead) and of course, the announcers.
That's where you'll find this humble wordsmith along with impresario and man of 1000 voices, Billy Davis, reading information about the entries and filling the gaps with audience-participation events. Don't be surprised if you hear someone singing the national anthem or coming up to the mike to talk about family members in the military.
The parade turns at Orchard Village, which by showtime, is a forest of pop-up tents where families bring ice chests and lawn chairs to enjoy their shaded vantage points. It's crowded and enthusiastic, but a good place to be, so if you're aiming for that home stretch, make sure to get there early and stake out your spot.
At the end of the route (16th Street), the new announcing team of George and Margie Cummings, described as the George Burns and Gracie Allen of the parade, will hold court. When the parade breaks up, traffic might be a little dicey, because everybody's trying to get out of there in a hurry. This is a good time to saunter back to your car, which you've wisely parked on the other side of Lyons or somewhere in the Old Orchard housing tract and sneak out a back way enroute to a backyard barbecue.
No barbecue/swim party for you? You can watch KHTS' morning deejay Brandon Gibson drop into a dunktank (he's going for a world record, so help him out) at the Bridgeport Marketplace Fourth of July Picnic and Carnival from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the corner of McBean Parkway and Newhall Ranch Road. You can visit with KHTS's afternoon deejay Jason Endicott who will be broadcasting from the event, see the station's antique fire engine and enjoy barbecue, sweet treats, a petting zoo, pony rides, a pie-eating contest and carnival games, with a percentage of game booth proceeds going to local charities. Best of all, admission is free.
For fireworks, you've got your choice. First, let's review the shows that won't be happening: Stevenson Ranch and Magic Mountain. Now, the ones that will: the City of Santa Clarita's show at Westfield Town Center and the County's show at Castaic Lake.
For the Westfield show, McBean Parkway between Valencia Blvd. and Magic Mountain Parkway will be closed, as parts of the road are in the fireworks' "fall zone."
Inside the mall, the fall zone will be policed by city volunteers (be nice to them) who will patrol the perimeter. The area to avoid is McBean Parkway from the mall entrance to Town Center Drive, parts of Town Center Drive and the area around the Market Garage.
To get into the mall for parking, use entrances on Magic Mountain Parkway, Valencia Boulevard and Citrus Drive.
The City's FREE show will be launched from the parking garage structure above Buca De Beppo; with the thrilling soundtrack broadcast live on KHTS AM1220. The show starts at 9:15 p.m. and suggested viewing areas include Parking Areas 2D-2H, 6C, 6K-6G, 7A-7E, 10C-106 and 10K-10M. (I know, I never noticed parking lot signs either. Most of these lots are around the outside of the mall behind Penneys, Sears and Macys.
In Castaic, gates will open for the fireworks extravaganza at 5:45 p.m.; the cost is $25 per car or $5 per person walking in. From 9:20 to 10 p.m., patrons will enjoy the "Lights of Freedom" fireworks over the lake.
That's about all we've got. Don't forget your sunscreen, thank all the military folks you might see for the freedoms we have, snack wisely and don't litter. Happy Fourth of July!