What is it about a parade that people love so much? I’ve been to many throughout the world, from Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin to Barcelona, Spain, and it never ceases to amaze me the crowds that will gather to watch a parade. A parade brings smiles to the faces of old and young alike, no matter where it’s held or why.
Such was the case this weekend on Balboa Island as thousands gathered along the red, white and blue swathed main street of Marine Avenue for this year’s 19th Annual Balboa Island Parade. In a nod to the rock n’ roll fun and frolicking of the 1950’s era, the parade was themed “Rock Around the Island”, and yes, there were poodle skirts.
This year’s parade set a record with 108 entries that included everything from the Marine Corps Color Guard, USMC Marching Band and Pearl Harbor survivors, to an impressive showing by the Girl Scouts and Indian Princesses. The Keystone Cops, which include former councilman and mayor Judge Steve Bromberg, kept the peace – sort of.
There was a gaggle of golden retrievers, the ever-popular Patio Chair Drill Team, local dignitaries riding in show-quality vintage cars, and high school bands and drill teams. Local talent including The Fabulous Nomads and The Retro’s entertained the crowds.
It was my fourth time riding in the parade with my hubby (his seventh). This year we had our granddaughter Ava with us, which made the morning even more special as we rode in the back of a gorgeous 1954 cream and sea-foam green Packard Caribbean convertible.
Since it only takes about 10 minutes to get through the entire parade route, after we are dropped off we join the rest of the crowd to enjoy the remainder of the parade. I am always so impressed how the volunteers of the event’s sponsor, the Balboa Island Improvement Association, keep things running smoothly from beginning to end.
In chatting with Balboa Island Business Improvement District president and owner of Wilma’s Patio restaurant, Sherry Drewery, I learned that the parade was started 19 years ago when the old gas station closed and plans were made to erect a new, modern fire station. As things sometimes go, community meetings were held during the planning of the station and not everyone agreed, resulting in a bit of a rift in the small island community.
In an attempt to undo some of the damage caused by the controversy, a ribbon-cutting ceremony was planned for the opening of the station, preceded by a small parade that included participation by local businesses and lots of kids.
As you can expect, everyone loved the parade, good feelings abounded and a tradition was born.
Jack Callahan, chairman of this year’s parade, who himself donned a pretty pink poodle skirt complete with pink scarf and loafers, said that despite trying to keep the entries to 100, the parade has become so popular that they start taking applications in February for the coming year, and this year they went slightly over the limit.
“We try and keep the parade to 100 entries so that it remains island friendly, with a hometown feeling”, Jack says. “Next year is a big one, we’ll be celebrating our 20th anniversary, so we are hoping to get more Island street floats, maybe spur a little friendly competition among Island residents to come up with a float representing their street.”
With a whole year to plan, I can’t wait to see what island residents and businesses come up with for the milestone celebration!
For more information about participating in next year’s Balboa Island Parade, visit balboa-island.org or call 949-675-1773. Columnist Lynn Selich resides in Newport Beach. Send comments and story ideas to her at [email protected].