Thousands of Redwood City residents of all ages came together on the morning of the Fourth of July to take in the colorful floats, elaborate costumes and energetic marching bands synonymous with the largest Independence Day parade in Northern California, now in its 91st year. 

Some residents came very early in the morning to stake out their favorite vantage point. The city forbids residents from setting up chairs until midnight on July 4 and that’s exactly when Redwood City native Lisa Fowler showed up. She’s been attending the annual parade her whole life and this year she enjoyed it with about 30 family and friends, who spent the night before the parade in a trailer that they parked close to the midpoint of the route. 

“Now that I have my own family it’s a bonding thing, it’s a tradition and it’s great to see my little one’s face when he sees all the dancers, animals and the bikes drive by — he loves the loud noises,” she said.

Albin Erskine also set up his chairs at midnight across the street from Fowler at a spot he’s been going to for about a decade to watch the parade march by.

“I used to go to parades as a kid and this one brings me back, I love the all the excitement, the rah-rah feel everyone has and I just want more marching bands,” he said. “It’s great to come out if you’re under control, which I am now, but I might not be later when I get the barbecue going.”

Rebecca Swartz also enjoyed the vibe of the parade.

“Everyone is so cheerful, smiling and laughing with strangers it’s like all the ice is broken, barriers removed and everyone is celebrating together,” she said.

The parade began at Brewster Avenue and Winslow Street and about an hour and a half later wrapped up at Arguello and Alden streets.

Among the first in the parade was grand marshal and Redwood City native James Appleby followed by parade marshal Vincent Schoenstein, also a longtime Redwood City resident. Schoenstein, 93, is a World War II veteran who fought as a combat infantryman in France in Germany and earned a Bronze star for valor there.

Law enforcement from just about every local agency one could think of were featured in the parade along with Redwood City Fire Department personnel riding in one of the city’s first motorized fire engines. Built in 1926, the fire engine was restored in 1966 and can pump 1,000 gallons of water per minute. It was last used to fight fires in 1955. 

Local elected officials cruised by in colorful vintage cars and local schools were represented by cheerleaders and marching bands.

There was elegant dancing by Ballet Folklorico Mexico, a big showing for Falun Dafa, a Chinese spiritual practice, and Kactus Joe and the Wild West Show trotted down the parade route on horseback. Local nonprofit Casa Circulo Cultural also sent an expertly crafted float depicting the landing of the moon.

The event was concluded by the Silver Back Bikers whose float featured Captain America on a motorcycle that he regularly revved to surround himself in smoke.

Parade-goer Frank Foley appreciated the diversity of parade.

“I liked seeing all the different ethnic groups being supported in the context of us all being American,” he said. “It reminded me how multicultural Redwood City is.”

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