Fourth of July Celebrations Showcase Orinda Community Spirit

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(Sally Hogarty, Photographer)
The popular MJ’s Brass Boppers return to perform in the 2021 4th of July parade.

    Editor’s Note: The parade is pending County approval.
    Come Independence Day, Orinda residents once again will enjoy a parade in person, an important festivity the entire city seems to embrace. 
    “There’s always been a joy about this event,” said Orinda Association President and Parade Co-chair Bill Waterman of the level of participation. “The joke was always that half the town is in the parade and the other half is watching it.” 
    COVID-19 forced the cancellation of last year’s July 4 tradition for the first time in the 38 years the association has organized it.   
    Residents’ only option was to watch a video compilation of past years’ celebrations posted online. 
    Waterman calls this year’s merrymaking a “coming out party,” noting that one of the challenges in planning the event is changing the mind-set of those accustomed to isolating themselves at home.   
    “It is safe to be outside wearing a mask, and many people have been vaccinated,” he said. 
    The parade and accompanying activities will, however, be noticeably different. 
    For starters, everyone will be expected to wear masks, which remains a state mandate when people are in crowded outdoor places. 
    To keep people at a safe distance from each other, there also will be no grandstands, Waterman added. 
    “We can’t do everything we want to do,” he said, noting that instead of piling into flatbed trucks, youngsters either will be in cars or walking alongside them. 
    Because it’s unlikely the county will issue temporary food permits, there probably won’t be food booths in the park or the pancake breakfast participants in the annual two-to-five mile run typically head for upon completion of their runs, Waterman said. 
    For that matter, there might not be a race in the traditional sense at all. 
    There’s still a statewide ban on endurance races. Fourth of July Run for a Reason organizer Meghan Frey is hoping to get permission for a two-mile walk that participants can accomplish anytime between 9 and 10:30 a.m.
    “It’s not a timed event so people won’t be all jammed together, and the idea is to encourage them to share their experience with everyone else by taking selfies and posting them on the race’s Instagram account,” she said AT@july4thrunforareason.
    The day’s events still will start with veterans from the local Veterans of Foreign Wars Post #8063 with bugler Ted Parker raising the flag in a 9 a.m. ceremony at the Community Center. 
    Leading the parade will be Waterman and other former Orinda Association presidents in honor of the non-profit’s 75th anniversary. 
    The action starts at 11 a.m. from the east side of the BART parking lot and will last appoximately one hour, ending at Irwin Way in Orinda Village. 
    Floats will include community groups such as local swim clubs, the region’s 4-H chapter, preschools and perhaps a student contingent from Miramonte High School. Stilt walkers also might be on the menu, said Parade Co-Chair Diane Lautz. 
    Gleaming antique cars promoting Orinda Association’s classic car show in September will be part of the procession, and a local rancher might clip-clop along in his horse-drawn wagon.  
    As for the music, MJ’s Brass Boppers Brass Band and Saint Gabriel’s Celestial Brass Band have confirmed they will be delivering their New Orleans-style music, Waterman said.  
    He’s also hoping for a thumbs-up from The Orinda All-Volunteer Marching Band, a group of anywhere from two to four dozen musicians who will practice their repertoire together for the first time just before the parade begins.  
    “They sound amazingly good,” Waterman said. 
    Other possible entrants include students from Orinda’s Academy of Language & Music Arts, bagpipers from San Jose and the Berkeley quintet, Lewiston Jazz. 
    After the parade, the public in the past has streamed into Orinda Community Park, where the entertainment has included bouncy houses and even a petting zoo, “An extravaganza – quite wacko!” Lautz said. 
    This year will be more subdued as families settle onto the lawn within circles designating areas where groups can sit together in pods. 
    Nonetheless, organizers hope to have live music from around noon to 1 p.m. and are working on bringing in food trucks, which are subject to different rules than food booths.  
    Lautz added she plans to contact local restaurants to see if they would consider selling box lunches. 
    The retired hospital administrator estimates she’s been spending upwards of 20 hours a week since February overseeing preparations for the big day with Waterman, and she has a 4-inch-thick binder of notes on every aspect of the event to prove it.  
    As she describes the voluminous number of details that require attention, Lautz mentions “parade trinity,” a phrase one of the former organizers coined. 
    It refers to the elements of a successful event: music, decorations and content, or the variety of entries in the parade, she explained. 
    But 15 months after a deadly global virus upended so many people’s daily lives, Waterman thinks there’s a different definition of success to consider. 
    The main point of this year’s celebration is simply to see and be seen, he said.  
     “That alone is a victory that we are winning over the pandemic,” Waterman said. 

(Sally Hogarty, Photographer)
The Polly Pepper Stilt Walkers are returning for this year’s parade.

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