By Jorge Casuso
Photos by Frank Gruber
July 5 -- Several thousand Santa Monicans lined Main Street
Wednesday morning as some 750 residents of the beachside city
took part in the biggest Fourth of July celebration in decades.
Organized by the Ocean Park Association, which led the parade
in a float pulled by a tractor (top left), the mile long procession
included displaced New Yorkers (top middle) who miss their
home after decades away and kids who have known no other home
but Santa Monica (top right).
"It's a parade float held together with cream cheese,
lox and spin," said Rob Novak, who moved from New York
15 years ago. "I love Santa Monica. I'm never going back,
but New York's still home."
Local organizations were out in force, with members of the
Santa Monica Chabad advertising "Mitzvahs on the Spot
for People on the Go" (top left); the Pony League from
Los Amigos Park trading bats, balls and gloves for saxes,
trumpets and trombones (top middle), and Iraq Veterans marching
against a war they saw first hand.
Large crowds (top left) lined the streets and sidewalks on
a warm, brilliant day to soak in the sun, sights and sounds
and let their numbers say what many had felt for years --
Santa Monica was long overdue for a parade.
"This is good," said Chris Johnson, a local merchant
who attended the much smaller Constitution Day parades staged
on Main Street nearly a decade ago. "This is lots and
lots of people. It kept going and going and going. I'm impressed."
Joel Brand, the driving force behind an effort that also
counted on help from the Wilshire Montana Neighborhood Coalition
(Wilmont) and the North of Montana Neighborhood Association
(NOMA) made sure everything ran smoothly (top center).
"I'm very pleasantly surprised at how many people turned
out," said Brand, vice president of the Ocean Park Association.
"It was a little crazy, but it all went very smoothly."
A Country and Western band (top left), playing tunes from
a flatbed lined with bales of hay, and kids in patriotic garb
(below left), gave the parade a homespun feel.
So did the politicians and civic leaders who rode -- and
in one case walked -- the 1.7 mile route in style. Council
member Bob Holbrook took his wife, Jean Ann, along with Council
member Bobby Shriver and his wife, Melissa, for a ride in
his Model-T Ford, while Sam Kardashian, the owner of Southern
California Disposal, took former mayor Nat Travis for a spin
in his vintage red convertible (top right).
A golf cart (below left) was the favored mode of transport
for former mayor Denny Zane, who took the wheel while Council
member Ken Genser and State Assembly member Julia Brownley
waved to constituents.
Crowds outside Main Street eateries (top right) also watched
former Mayor Judy Abdo drive by in a vintage black convertible
(below left), while Council member Herb Katz stood in the
front of a fire engine.
Thomas Larmore, who was recently sworn in as chair of the
Chamber of Commerce board, chose a new Toyota hybrid, stepping
out to wave (below center) to friends.
"This is terrific," said Larmore, a local attorney.
"I'm amazed at the turnout... It's like a small town
event. You see people you know all along the route."
While most dignitaries drove, the entire Santa Monica College
Board of Trustees walked the route. "We were ecologically
responsible," said Trustee Nancy Greenstein.
Brand said he wasn't sure there would be another parade next
year, but then again, he didn't say there wouldn't be, either.
"All the volunteers said, 'Oh, my God, I'll never do
this again,'" he said. "We're ecstatic about this.
It was really a community parade, and that's what we hoped