Let’s help save Claremont’s Fourth of July celebration

Participants ready to begin the 2015 Fourth of July Parade wait on Tenth Street before heading south on Indian Hill Boulevard. Since the new earlier 10 a.m. start time, the 2023 parade had fewer floats and smaller crowds. Courier photo/Peter Weinberger

by Peter Weinberger | pweinberger@claremont-courier.com

Independence Day in Claremont includes so many popular events. It’s the largest city celebration of the year, like the 2015 parade above. But over the past several years participation has dropped by an estimated 30-35%. Determining the reasons why and how this occurred is a point of growing debate between the city and Claremont residents.

Claremont has a proud history of celebrating the Fourth of July, focused on bringing people together to honor our nation’s birthday. Over the years city leaders developed events that created fond memories for young and old alike. As someone who was born in Claremont, I can say they succeeded.

The pandemic changed our celebration. Events were called off, with no morning 5K run, pancake breakfast, parade, or fireworks. It was a difficult time for everyone. But the pandemic has passed, and cities like La Verne and Upland now have crowds that meet or exceed pre-pandemic levels.

So why is Claremont struggling when other surrounding cities are not?

Back in 2016

Before the pandemic, Independence Day events started at 8 a.m. with the Freedom 5000 run and Kiwanis pancake breakfast at Memorial Park. By 10 a.m. activity booths would open, followed by the Speakers Corner, more food booths at the north end of the park, blow-up water slides, and a dunking tank. Many families would hang out for hours, while large crowds stayed around long after the runners (1,153 in 2016) finished races, with friends and families cheering them on.

  • The Courier is conducting a poll at poll.fm/13498103. Let us know how you feel about Claremont’s Fourth of July celebration.

The really full — and fun — morning would begin to wind down about 2 p.m., just in time for the 3 p.m. parade. The parade route was always four or five people thick along Indian Hill Boulevard. And unless you got there early and staked out a spot for your chair or blanket, you were going to be watching over the heads of the early birds. I’m sure many of our readers remember all the chairs and blankets lining Indian Hill Boulevard a day or two before July Fourth. In fact, so many people were saving spots so early that the city began limiting how early folks could do it.

By the time the parade ended, many people walked down to the Village, had a picnic in Memorial Park, or rested up for the after dark fireworks show and concert at Pomona College, which was usually a sellout. In 2016, more than 5,000 people attended.

Just take a look at the photo from 2015 along 10th Street showing the parade with city groups participating, banners, flags, floats, and more. It generated a lot of excitement. Participation in the parade was high, with dozens of decorated cars, floats, kids with bikes, organizations with large banners. There was never a shortage of fun, and it seemed everyone in town attended.

Claremont was the place to be on the Fourth of July. We drew crowds from surrounding cities and further afield because it was a full day and night of festive fun.

Although over the years attendance for Claremont’s July Fourth fireworks show has varied, the city enjoyed many sellout crowds at Pomona College. During a sellout, the public fills the infield with few open spaces numbering around 5,000 people. In 2023, the number noticeably was less. Courier photo/Peter Weinberger

Fast-forward to 2023

Over the past few years, changes to the timing and scale of our traditional Fourth of July events have resulted in a celebration that looks and feels quite different. Since the pandemic, the city has been very clear that there are staffing issues to consider, including possible overtime costs. There are also more safety issues now, additional rules and regulations that make some events more complex to pull off. Especially daunting is holding a 5k race with 1,100 runners trotting through Claremont at the same time other events are happening.

The world continues to change. We’ve become more polarized. Many are still impacted by the pandemic. Another change is participation in our July Fourth events has dropped. City representatives I spoke to say this reduction in attendance and enthusiasm is natural, given the mood of our nation. And yes, there are certainly new hurdles to climb when managing any public event.

There’s no question these issues deserve attention. But has the city invested enough time and energy evaluating the impact on the public these changes have brought? Especially given July Fourth is a unique day that brings us together, regardless of politics or beliefs.

There’s an elephant in the room here: just who is July Fourth for? For the public to enjoy during summer holiday? Should we focus on cutting costs and making it easier to manage, even if by doing so we are creating events people are simply less excited about?

This is why public support for change is so important. Are you ready to say we can do better? Because I think we can.

Impact on the public

Timing is everything. After the pandemic, the city moved the Freedom 5000 run to the weekend prior to the Fourth of July. This helps the city by not having to staff up to manage a large event first thing the morning of July Fourth.

Though it sounds like a practical reason to make the change, moving the race to the week before the holiday has had a huge impact on July Fourth, especially for the volunteers who help manage the race.

Before the change, the more than 1,100 runners, their family members, and other supporters helped support the other activities at Memorial Park. The Claremont High School cross country team also uses the race as its key fundraiser. Sponsorships for runners are a harder sell when the race is not held on the holiday, especially from businesses who want a Fourth of July presence. It’s just not the same.

Two of Nona Tirre’s kids have participated in CHS cross country since 2018. She’s been involved in the team’s fundraising. “I’ve seen a definite change in public support,” Tirre said. “COVID gets blamed, but I believe it’s the change of dates that has made a big impact.”

She’s not the only one.

With less people at Memorial Park on the morning of July Fourth, other events have suffered too. The once vibrant Speaker’s Corner had far less participants. Last year it was about five.

But no event has been impacted as much as the Fourth of July parade. Last year’s started at 10 a.m. I was able to get a seat right on the curb on Indian Hill Boulevard near Eighth Street only 10 minutes prior. That would have been impossible before the change to the start time.

One look at the participants and it was easy to tell there were fewer floats, bikes, and VIPs, who often have other commitments that time of day. It was also shorter. Once over, the gentleman standing next to me muttered “That’s it?”

Changing Claremont’s Fourth of July events around — the dates, the times — has created a loss of momentum and not a small amount of confusion. The parade starts at the same time other venues open up in the park. The timing is all off.

Even the fireworks show has become an issue, with a drop in attendance and in the quality of the show. Claremont restarted its fireworks show a year later than other nearby cities post-pandemic. And when it did, it offered a reduced display with limited height fireworks. Yes, fireworks are a big-ticket item — the city will spend more than $30,000 on 2024’s display — but these expenses can be recouped through ticket sales.

Independence Day committee

Designed to help organize and plan the city’s Fourth of July festivities, Claremont’s Independence Day Committee has played an important role as stewards of the important celebration. But interest in serving has waned dramatically: in 2016, there were 23 committee members; by February 2023, the count was seven.

According to the minutes of the September 27, 2023 Independence Day committee meeting  (viewable at ci.claremont.ca.us/home), the remaining few members expressed strong concerns about the new direction Claremont’s Fourth of July celebration had taken. Committee members said they could not find a single person with any positive comments about the changes that had occurred; they also said the parade and fireworks show had been impacted the most.

Since that September 2023 meeting, there’s been no movement from the city to address any of these concerns.

It’s too late for this year, but for 2025, the Rotary Club of Claremont has already volunteered to manage the morning 5K race using the formula from the very popular Turkey Trot, which saw a record number of runners in 2023. This is a huge gift to the city because it eliminates their involvement and cost.


  • Let’s get past using the pandemic as a reason why things have changed. Other cities have recovered, meeting or even exceeding pre-pandemic attendance levels.
  • It’s too hard to find information about the Independence Day committee. I tried at city hall and the Alexander Hughes Community Center, before finally being referred to Claremont’s Human Services Director Melissa Vallaro.
  • Let’s get community input. The Independence Day committee should hold a special meeting focused on addressing the public’s concerns. Transparency is critical. We will publish the findings in the Courier in print and online.
  • Seek input from the Claremont City Council. This is an issue that impacts how residents vote.
  • Claremont leadership must hear from the public! Write a letter to the editor at editor@claremont-courier.com. Email a City Council member. I want to hear from you too! My email is pweinberger@claremont-courier.com.

Independence Day is Claremont’s largest yearly community celebration. It’s a vital tradition, and important to the quality of life we are lucky to enjoy. Let’s help make it better.


• See the Independence Day committee report from the minutes of their September 27, 2023 meeting on the July Fourth celebration. Scroll near the end of the report.

• Contact the city at ci.claremont.ca.us/how-do-i/contact-the-city. Here are the players: City Manager Adam Pirrie; Mayor Sal Medina; Council members Jed Leano, Jennifer Stark, Ed Reece, and Corey Calaycay.

• The website is also a resource to learn about the  Independence Day committee and even fill out an application to become a member. There’s also a portal for general citizen feedback.

1 Comment

  1. beatrice@opheliasjump.org

    I would like to see the day go back to what it was with the race in the morning and the parade in the afternoon. It made for a wonderful day for the whole family. It was good for the community and encouraged civic and community engagement. Being able to go from the parade to dinner or to get a drink at a neighbor’s or a Village restaurant to the fireworks show was great. I have no interest in a parade in the morning.

Submit a Comment

Share This