Orinda Votes to Hold Parade Despite COVID-19 Concerns

(Sally Hogarty, Photographer)
The annual Fourth of July parade is back. With July 4 falling on a Sunday this year, the parade will start at 11 a.m. rather than the usual 10 a.m. start time. For complete information on the parade and other festivities, see Pages 9-13.

    On June 2, the Orinda City Council voted 3-2 to go ahead with the town’s annual Fourth of July parade this year despite continuing concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic. 
    The celebration will be a scaled down version of its predecessors after its cancellation last year. It will include the mile-long parade and concert in the Orinda Community Park in the afternoon, but will not include the petting zoo, bouncy houses, bleachers for sitting or food booths that normally bring the community together. 
    The parade is set to start at 11 a.m. from the Theatre Side of town to allow people to join after Sunday services, according to The Orinda Association President Bill Waterman. If people are unable to participate in person, a livestream will also be made available at 10:30 a.m. for residents to tune into the festivities from home, according to Waterman.
    There will be a flag raising ceremony at 9 a.m., along with the start of the 2-mile “Fun Run for a Reason” to support the Sudden Unexplained Death in Childhood Foundation that will last until 10:30 a.m. Participants are encouraged to start and finish their walk/run anytime between 9 and 10:30 a.m. There will be no official start with large groups, but rather staggered small groups.
    The City Council authorized the closure of a portion of Moraga Way, Brookwood Road, Camino Pablo, Santa Maria Way and Orinda Way for the parade to take place during their June 2 meeting. 
    Councilmember Inga Miller and Mayor Amy Worth expressed concern for holding the event this year, but Councilmembers Nick Kosla, Darlene Gee and Vice Mayor Dennis Fay voted for it. 
    Though she is against having the parade this year and would rather postpone it until the next, Mayor Worth says she will be at the parade with a mask on. 
    “I certainly want to support the community event, and I look forward to supporting this community,” said Worth. “There are a lot of uncertainties. I looked forward to us having a Fourth of July parade, but we do not know what will happen as we start to open up.”
    Kosla said his reasoning in voting to go forward with the traditional event this year was solidified after going to graduation parties over the past few weeks where he saw people “being respectful and wearing masks.” 
    Worth’s counter was the schools have more control over how many people show up to graduation, which is a “once in a lifetime event.” Schools were able to mandate how many people per student could attend the celebration while also requiring masks. The city, conversely, can only do what the state and county require as mandatory guidelines.  
    Which is exactly what The Orinda Association (OA) intended when it pitched the suggested celebration to city officials, according to OA Board Member Diane Lautz.
    The OA, which has held the parade annually since 1985, typically begins planning the event early in the new year. Planning for this one was no different than usual according to Waterman.
    “[We] met back in January and talked to volunteers and the OA Board with the understanding that we would only go forward within CDC and county guidelines,” said Lautz. “We’ve been going forward with that in mind since. We were resigned to stop if the regulations said that we couldn’t [have the event].” 
    Citizens are excited to get back into community events and to have a sense of normalcy.
    “It would be good to have something,” said resident Shannon Pedroni during the June 2 meeting. “I for one would feel comfortable and confident and think it would be a great event.”
    Postcards for the event explaining masks for unvaccinated individuals are recommended by the County Health Department and encouraging masks for everyone will be sent to all Orinda residents in late June.
    Orinda’s vaccination rate is higher than most cities in Contra Costa County with 83.6% of residents partially vaccinated and 74.7% fully vaccinated as of the June 2 meeting according to the Contra Costa Health Department.
    Though most of the city is at least partially vaccinated, Worth says her main concern is that “there is no clear, no black and white,” on how to get back to normal without mandatory guidelines. She called things like the parade still “in this gray area.” 
    Concerns were raised by city officials about turnout to the parade since Piedmont, Concord, Clayton, Martinez and Danville have all canceled or postponed their own city celebrations. But Lautz and Waterman assured them that in years where the parade lands on a Sunday, turnout is lower and typically hovers in the 2,000 to 3,000 participant range. 
    Lautz argued that there are not enough parking spots available for nonresidents to join in the festivities, and with Bay Area Rapid Transit only serving 20% of its normal ridership, it would be difficult to get to Orinda without a car. 
    “We are being thoughtful about what we are doing,” said Lautz. “We feel that people are ready to get back to normalcy.”

(Richard Westin | Orinda News Archives)
With a 3-2 vote win, Orindans and city officials decided Orinda will have it’s 4th of July parade this year after all, yet it will be a scaled down version of past year’s parade due to safety precautions.

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