Claremont sends off the 4th in style

The savory smells of BBQ filled the summer air Wednesday afternoon along with the sights of streamers, banners and patriotic regalia spread along Indian Hill Boulevard and Tenth Street. Groups of eager youngsters decked out in red, white and blue—accompanied by parents equally enthusiastic about the day’s events—gathered en masse for the start of Claremont’s staple Fourth of July Parade.

Maintaining Claremont’s annual tradition, the city parade began with a brigade of the young, and young at heart. The pride was palpable in the crowd’s spirit, star-spangled outfits and decorated vehicles. The band of festive big wheels, bikes, wagons and scooters drew throngs of people toward the Fourth of July Parade route as it has in years past.

“It’s very symbolic,” said Bob Banwart, a 30-year Claremont resident, of the parade’s opener. Mr. Banwart was thrilled to be able to share the significance of the Claremont tradition with his grandchildren.

“It’s a wonderful time to reflect on how great our country is, and just enjoy time with family,” he said.

Mr. Banwart took the opportunity to make the experience a lesson in family ties and patriotism, helping grandson Gabriel Mabee, 8, and Grace, 6, appropriately decorate their bicycles before parade day. The result had Grace donning a helmet embellished with red, white and blue flowers while Gabriel opted for patriotic pinwheels and ribbons.

“The bow is my favorite,” said Gabriel, pointing out the stars and stripes detailing the fixture on the front of his bike.

Beyond the fun decorating with his grandpa, Gabriel was excited to celebrate America’s freedom, something he does not take for granted.

“Freedom means not being forced to be drafted when you are 10 years old like in other countries,” he said, referring to the 20 or more countries across the world where children are reportedly forced into combat at a young age.   

Children of the Claremont Unified School District (CUSD) were eager to reflect on that American freedom in their own way aboard their own “living float.” The float was trimmed with plants and handmade signs put together by the children promoting solar power and sustainable energy. The school kids weren’t afraid to work hard to promote eco-friendly living, putting in long hours to adorn the float with the appropriate decor.

“It took us forever,” said Lucy Chinn, 10, who attends Sycamore Elementary.

Her little brother, Theo, chimed “like 1 or 2 hours” in agreement.

For 12-year-old Amber Kaljumagi, the time was well-spent. She likened her experience of building the living float—and her gardening skills acquired from a partner program between CUSD and Sustainable Claremont—to America’s first settlers growing their own food.

“We are celebrating our freedom by growing our own corn and plants,” Amber said. “We are being brought back to the old days.”

Several floats back, 12-year old Elissa Perez and her mother, Yvette Perez, got crafty in their own way, wearing matching hair pieces adorned with butterflies. The Perez family floated down the parade route promoting Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden, where Elissa’s mother works as the donor records specialist. Every year, the Perezes enjoy participating in Fourth of July festivities as a family unit. To Elissa, Independence Day is about loved ones.

“It’s fun to be together and celebrate being patriotic,” Elissa said, though admitting some nerves at her first time participating as a parade participant.

Parade veterans Ethan Landa, 12, and sister Lauren, 9, played it cool at the start of the parade lineup with more than a decade’s worth of parade experience under their belts. The Landa family also participates in the parade as a family every year. Though in years past the Landas mainly stuck to bicycling down the parade route,  this year the kids went all out with an extravagantly designed wagon, stars and stripes included. Poles and streamers were part of Ethan’s design stacked on top of the family’s little, red wagon.

“[The wagon] gave us more of a canvas to work with,” explained Ethan of decorating the wagon instead. Lauren, the family artist, added her touch with a painted sign.

The Landa parents have enjoyed watching and encouraging their 2 children’s participation in Claremont’s Independence Day Parade and its homage to American history.

“We feel like our kids have really grown [with the parade],” said Ethan and Lauren’s mother Laura Landa. “The celebration is unique and truly speaks to what is so great about the Claremont community.”

—Beth Hartnett


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