Pioneering Icons to Lead This Year’s Best Hometown Parade

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(Contributed Photo)
(Contributed Photo)
Both of this year’s Grand Marshals made lasting contributions to Orinda and its residents. Ann Christofferson was instrumental in establishing the Community Center, while Bobbie Landers (shown with fellow City Councilmember Bill Dabel) helped to organize The Orinda Association’s first annual Fourth of July parade.

    You often hear it before you see it. The wail of the bagpipes, the beat of the drums, the patter of many tiny, and not so tiny, feet on the pavement. Then, around the corner comes the colorful, joyous collection of people, floats and cars known as Orinda’s annual hometown parade. 
    While “hometown” might seem a quaint word to describe a parade in a wealthy suburb bordering the sprawling metropolis of the greater Bay Area, it perfectly fits this homegrown event which attracts thousands of participants.
    This year’s Grand Marshals, Ann Cristofferson and Bobbie Landers, harken back to the pioneers who put on Orinda’s first parades. In 1976, Christofferson, an Orinda Association board member, headed a group of volunteers determined to start a community center in Orinda and commemorate our country’s bicentennial at the same time. The energetic volunteers organized a Fourth of July parade, which included a street dance in front of Phair’s Department Store. Funds raised benefited a proposed community center. 
     The OA had raised $65,000 many years before for a local community center, and current board members were adding to that amount in the hopes of purchasing the Orinda School, which had been declared surplus property by the Orinda Union School District (OUSD).
    The school district, however, wasn’t convinced a community center was the best option for the historic site. A short-term rental was finally agreed upon with Christofferson and many other volunteers fixing the roof and repairing the facility to accommodate classes. The classes proved so popular that OUSD agreed to a lease/option to buy arrangement with The OA.
    “It was quite a time. We all just pitched in and did whatever needed to be done,” says Christofferson. “I’m so grateful to the OA for purchasing that seven-acre parcel. Without them, we wouldn’t have a community center or park, and the current library is also on that seven-acre parcel.”
    Years later, another OA board member would put her own mark on Orinda with a parade. Landers remembered the sense of togetherness and pride she always felt at the Fourth of July parade in her hometown of Glen Ellyn, Illinois and thought such an event might work well in Orinda. 
    She and fellow board members, Dick Heggie and Bill Gross had been working tirelessly on incorporating Orinda into a city and thought a parade would be a fun way to educate residents on the pros and cons of establishing a local government. So, in 1984 they organized what would become the first of 35 annual parades in Orinda. Whether it was the parade, or all the other work done to encourage incorporation, Orindans voted on March 14, 1985 to become a city with Heggie as mayor and Landers, Joseph Harb, William Dabel and Aldo Guidotti as the first city council. 
    Sponsored by The Orinda Association since that fateful July 4, 1984, the parade continues to be a homegrown affair with parade entrants ranging from local Rotary Clubs to pre-schools to swim clubs to local families happily walking or tricycling the parade route. 
    Favorite entries returning this year include: Blue Devils C Corps Marching Band, New Orleans-style Brass Boppers, Peter Pan Foundation’s high school students in Disney costumes and, of course, the gorgeous classic cars and crazy swim team floats.
    Lots of music will keep the parade energized starting and ending with the Orinda All Volunteer Pick Up Marching Band. (See here for more information on both the music in the parade and in the park.)
    Starting at 10 a.m. in front of the Wells Fargo Bank on the theatre side of Orinda, the parade winds its way under the freeway to the Orinda Community Center, where covered seating is available for seniors. Call 925-254-0800 to reserve a spot. Joining the two grand marshals will be five junior marshals ranging from 3-12 years of age.
    Early risers might want to begin the Independence Day celebration with a pancake breakfast sponsored by the Lamorinda Sunrise Rotary Club. Providing plenty of energy for the fun day, the breakfast runs from 7:30 – 10 a.m. The flag raising ceremony, performed by VFW Post 8063, takes place in front of the Community Center at 7:55 a.m. with the Fourth of July Run for a Reason starting at 8 a.m. (go to https://raceroster.com/events/2019/21862/4th-of-july-run-for-reason).
    The Friends of the Orinda Library opens its popular book sale at 9 a.m. with the parade at 10 a.m. and a plethora of activities and music running from 11:30 a.m. – 2 p.m. in Community Center Park (see story here).
    For more information, check out the parade website at www.orindaparade.com and be sure you read “Know Before You Go” here and a complete calendar of Fourth of July events here.
    Fourth of July T-shirts and caps can be purchased prior to the parade at The Orinda Association (OA) office on the lower level of the Orinda Library. They will also be available at Parade Headquarters in front of the Community Center on July 4. The OA is accepting U.S. flag sponsors. Call 925-254-0800 or email oa@orindaassociation.org for more information.

(Contributed Photo)
Orinda’s All Volunteer Pick Up Marching Band was a tradition in the making at an early Fourth of July parade in the 1980s. Seen here in front of the Orinda Theatre with the scaffolding for the future Theatre Square in the background.

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