Island City Tradition Faces Uncertain Future

One of the more significant events to take place here in the Island City each year has suddenly hit a snag in its more than 40-year history. Since its inception under the leadership of Mayor Chuck Corica to celebrate the nation’s bicentennial in 1976, the Alameda Fourth of July Parade has long held a significant place in this city’s culture. 

Alamedans proudly describe their parade as “The Longest in the Nation.” It took a while to try and disambiguate that description: Longest route? Longest time commitment? Longest in terms of number of entrants? Closest statement to the truth is that the Island City’s parade is longer in all three cases. No other municipality has been able to prove otherwise — even Washington D.C.

Alameda’s route, winding its way from Park Street to Webster Street measures 3.3 miles. The parade most associated with the White House is just one mile long. No need to check the aerial photos. 
The nation’s capital will enjoy their parade from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Alameda’s parade potentially drags on longer as the parade begins on Park Street at 10 a.m. and the last float reaches Webster Street sometime mid-afternoon.  

I wasn’t able to find a complete order of march for last year’s Washington D.C. parade, but it does boast “at least one band from all the 50 states.” Let’s say D.C. managed to line up two bands from each state, they’d still have to come up with another 20 to 30 entrants to have a longer physical parade (measured by number of entrants) to top Alameda’s typical level of participation.

“Alameda’s Fourth of July Parade is actually the largest pop-up event in the nation,” said longtime parade organizer, Barbara Price. “People might not think of it that way, but before 7 a.m. there’s no parade, at 11 a.m. there is a giant parade with thousands of spectators, and by 3 p.m., you can hardly even tell it happened.” 

Price’s parade committee — staffed by a who’s who of Alamedans who make things happen — her staff and others all volunteer time to produce the parade that so many have come to enjoy as part of what it means to be an Alamedan. I myself have enjoyed both watching the parade and riding in it, and never once have I paid a dime for the privilege.

Every parade since the 1970s has been run by this volunteer committee. One by one, the members from Corica’s era resigned and were replaced with new volunteers. The committee continues to operate solely under its own volunteer, nonprofit organization, by locals interested in seeing the parade continue.

Alamedans may just be discovering that the future of the parade is currently in flux. While at least one Councilmember has assured me the parade will receive “a budget line item” in the future, city staff has seen the cost of parade security balloon. Instead of some draconian cost-cutting method, in today’s modern age, the need for secure traffic intersections and volunteers to man those barriers has become more expensive.

Any large gathering of people must now be considered a target for terrorism. Even our long-celebrated patriotic parade could be a venue for tradgedy. The City and Alameda Police Department take the responsibility for residents’ security seriously and will cover the increased cost this year, as they have every year. But next year this cost could be passed on to the parade committee at tremendous detriment to the parade’s future.

Alamedans, if you indeed care for this more than 40-year tradition in our city, the time has come to pay some dues. The committee critically needs volunteers to secure those traffic barriers, to help fund the celebration and to pen letters to Councilmembers requesting they support the parade.

If you can donate time on Thursday, July 4, email alameda 4thofjulyparade.aa@gmail.com. To help out with a financial contribution to the Alameda Fourth of July Foundation, a nonprofit organization, send a check to Alameda Fourth of July Parade Committee, P.O. Box 6523, Alameda, CA 94501. 

To find out more about the parade in general, visit www.alamedaparade.com, and look for the official program containing the official order of march inside the Alameda Sun, Thursday, July 4.