Friday, July 5, 2013

The Totally! Epic! Alameda Fourth of July Parade!

Yesterday, I went to Alameda, my home town, to partake in the annual tradition: a completely homegrown and yet over-the-top Fourth of July Parade. People line the streets from Park Street, the main mercantile area, down Otis Drive, making a sharp right onto Grand Avenue and then jogging down Encinal to Central Avenue, and on to Webster Street.

Which doesn't mean anything to you if you're not from Alameda. But the thing about Alameda is that the first question an Alamedan asks you if you live in Alameda is "What street do you live on?" That question contains multitudes -- including whether you live along the parade route or not. And if you live anywhere along the route, you should plan to be hosting a big get-together. For a number of years, I went to the annual Foote family pig roast, all part of the 4th of July festivities.

I went with my parents who still live in town (on Bay Farm, since you ask) and we snagged some good and relatively shady spots on Otis Drive, right across from the park. We got there plenty early and entertained ourselves in a thoroughly disreputable manner.

Sudoku! and a book! Tch.
There's a 5K race for charity along the route before the parade starts, although "race" is a relative term. The last of the racers kind of ambled along, passing the place where my parents and I were sitting mere minutes before the first color guard and Army Pipe and Drum band kicked things off.

Oh, but I should mention the tract!

Between the racers and the parade, a man came by and handed us a tract with the words, "Don't litter." And here's what it looked like:

If you must...

Would you be astonished to learn that the question he wished to ask -- well, actually, that the tract wished to ask as the man who had told us not to litter had already gone on to tell other people not to litter -- is "Has anyone ever taken a Bible and shown you how you can know for sure that you are going to heaven?"

Uh boy.

I noticed that there was not one mention of love throughout this tract. Not once. Lots about what miserable sinners we all are and how grateful we should be that Jesus died for us, being such miserable sinners and all. But no love at all. What an appalling waste. I may not have littered, but it was still trash. (Though it gets 5 stars on, in case you're interested in getting some for yourself.)

Anyway, I got all worked up about that, so it's a good thing the parade came along.

The wonderful thing about the Alameda parade is that it is a fabulous mix of homegrown talent, commercial enterprise, and civic responsibility. You start with the mayor and the council members and the U.S. Congressperson, and the local utilities, and the local hospital, get the idea. They all ride in the backs of fancy convertible cars, waving and saying, "Happy 4th of July!" as people mostly stare at them, which must be tiring.

But then you get things like the local school bands. I was mighty pleased to see my middle school Alma Mater, the Lincoln Lions, marching and playing very well, if you ask me.

They came in 1st in the "Bands, Marching" category. That's as opposed to "School Band -Transported."
Because some of them travel the parade route on a flatbed. Lincoln, though, is HARD-CORE! Go Lions!

But it must be noted that after a while the parade become a bit of a walking (or floating) infomercial for pretty much every business in Alameda. I highly approve of Ole's Waffle Shop, who really did make an effort with their float:

I took this too late for you to see clearly the folks sitting at the coffee shop counter on the flatbed.

But I thought the company who included "Ask us about our special promotional offer!" on their sign might have been a bit tasteless. And I'm not sure the local tow truck company needed to have four trucks in the parade. Unless they were planning to work as well.

It's a great opportunity for the local community organizations, too. As the floats go by, people hand out flyers and information (and toss candy). I don't know how much interest they get from being in the parade, but it sure can't hurt.

I didn't take this photo. It gives you a good picture of Park Street!

After a while, all the floats just float on by together and you take the opportunity to say hello to friends you haven't seen for a while, catch up on what's happening, find out who's been reading your blog (hi, Mark!), promise to take a mimosa since people keep insisting, and generally enjoy the vibe.

And then, after the tow trucks have gone by and you realize you have had your fill of Alameda's civic life, you wander on back to your car and head on home, wondering how many participants there are going to be next year. And will it top the 176 groups and bands and businesses and civic leaders that participated this year.

I guess someday I'll tire of it, but it has a lot of charm. I'm glad to celebrate the 4th in this way. I hope you had a grand celebration as well.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Laura, it was great to see you yesterday at the epic event. Next year, please come set up your observation post here on Grand Street. Please consider this your permanent invitation. Yours in parade appreciation.