Things have changed for Claremont’s Fourth of July celebration

by Peter Weinberger |

At first, I thought it might just be me. It started when watching the 10 a.m. parade as participants marched down Indian Hill Boulevard eventually turning right (west) on Harrison Avenue. As many of us Claremont vets know, the morning start date has changed from 4 p.m., used for many years before the pandemic.

The weather was warm but cooler than previous afternoon start times. It was only about 25 minutes before the parade begin, yet my wife Betsy and daughter Collette were able to find parking off Eighth Street, only a couple of blocks from the parade route. This was a surprise because I remember how tricky parking could be.

Upon arriving at the route on Indian Hill, I was relieved when seeing all the available curb space. We were fortunate given how crowded it had been anywhere near Memorial Park. In fact, at one point curb space was so coveted, the city curtailed overnight lawn chair and blanket parking until the day of the parade. Otherwise it was impossible to find a space. Not a problem now.

Then my son Matt, who was taking video for the Courier, said it didn’t seem like as many people were here. By the time the entire parade passed, it was obvious there were less people watching and participating. Some said 50% less. There was a lot of enthusiasm, but not the traditional July Fourth kind.

After the parade I checked out the vendors at the east end of the park. The Kiwanis pancake breakfast had ended but some vendors expressed concern the crowds were thin. They set up at 10 a.m., right when the parade started. Eventually the crowds came, but with no 5k race, no pancake breakfast, and a completed parade, there was less of a reason for people to stay and play.

Impact of changing events

There’s no denying Claremont’s Fourth of July festivities are more difficult and complex to manage these days. Risk management is important. And some of the issues, like the pandemic or even gun violence, concern people deeply. I can only talk about what I’ve seen after watching dozens of Claremont Fourth of July events.

The most problematic issue seems to be the parade’s 10 a.m. start time. Move it back to the afternoon. That gives more time for preparation for those in the parade, more time for people to show up early to Memorial Park, then simply walk over and watch the parade. Let’s make it easy to sign up to participate if your business or organization qualifies. A 50% drop in parade numbers needs to be addressed. It’s noticeable. Have the residents of Claremont simply lost interest?

The morning 5k was very successful this year, but it was held on July 2. I’m happy there were strong numbers … but it’s a holiday race! Why not limit the number of participants if it’s too hard to manage? Or charge more to pay overtime for city employees to staff it? Most importantly, the 5k race gets the ball rolling for people who will be celebrating the Fourth of July in Claremont.

Finally, the fireworks show. I am admittedly biased. But it’s time to move it off Pomona College’s Strehle Track. There are simply too many limitations. Water is a major one. And it impacted the show’s length and type of fireworks used. It wasn’t a bad show, just not what it used to be. And with Upland’s fireworks exploding over Claremont’s eastern border, it’s easy to compare.

What’s clearly missing now is synergy; when held on July 4, one event helped the other … and brought many good times to all. Challenges certainly remain, but the good news is there are people at city hall who evaluate and work to make this holiday better for all of us.

I encourage you to use this link to learn what’s happening with Claremont’s Independence Day planning. The city wants to hear from you with ideas for 2024.


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