MODESTO -- The city's 138th annual Fourth of July Parade wound through downtown, paving the way for the celebrations, potlucks, swims and fireworks of the nation's 236th Independence Day.
Heat and tradition, two staples of the holiday, followed in its footsteps.
The day started early for entrants, who lined up well before the 9:30 a.m. start.
Convertible driver Rudy Marquez, prepping his car for the race, said he likes feeling the excitement mount. "That's part of the fun, the building," he said.
Marquez anointed daughter Koryn, 10, "Drama Queen" and her friend Paige Martins "Princess" for the day.
"I see these rodeo queens and the festival queens. I think it's time for the true queens," Marquez said with a laugh.
Shriner clowns and Lizzy riders worked the waiting crowd. "I love watching the kids and their excitement not just for us, the whole thing," Ron Burch said.
At age 7, Hailey Lopes sat on her pony, Twinkie, with the bearing of a veteran performer. Her shirt had red accents and sparkles by mom, Rosa Lopes. Her hat and bow tie were from dad, who wore them in parades when he was her age.
The parade began with a solemn moment to honor those who serve the reason we have an Independence Day, parade chairman Jeremiah Williams said.
Williams said the event went smoothly, an overheated engine the only breakdown among 108 entries. New this year were shade structures set up along I Street's sunny north side, with an area set aside for wheelchair riders and others needing accommodation.
The farmers market added to the welcoming atmosphere, he said, adding that vendors reported selling out of coffee and nearly out of pastries.
Williams estimated that 30,000 spectators lined the parade route, slightly up from last year.
Among them was Ruth Amador Barraza, who watched the parade with 45 friends and family members from a shady spot by the judging stand. Barraza took a vacation day from work and staked out her area at 4 a.m. She admits she overslept usually, she's there by 3.
"I've been coming over 30 years. It's a tradition," she said, one that started when she was little. Now three generations of Amadors and Barrazas gather each year for the Fourth of July Parade.
Just feet away, Irene Gomez sat in the spot she squared away at 7:30 a.m. An umbrella shaded her and daughter Isabella, 8, lounging on a blanket with crafts and snacks. "We just hang out," Gomez said, enjoying the family time as much as the performers parading by.
Spots by the judging stand are prime. That's where every entry puts its best foot forward, even after hours of working, waiting and walking. Rows straighten, shoulders square, drum beats jibe and even the starch in the uniforms seems to crisp.
It's a second wind before the parade winds down and before all the Fourth of July excitement of afternoon and after dark begins.
Bee staff writer Nan Austin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2339.
THEME: Downey FFA
OVERALL: Cub Scouts Pack 223, "Cub Scouts Enjoying America, the Beautiful Outdoors"
EQUESTRIAN: Hailey Lopes
EQUESTRIAN CLUB: Modesto Police Mounted Unit
MARCHING BAND: Modesto High School Panther Band
MUSICAL GROUP: Stanislaus County Office of Education YES Company (Youth Entertainment Stage)
MILITARY: Commemorative Air Force
COMICAL: Aahmes Shriners, Shrine Clowns
MOTORCYCLE: Star Touring & Riding, Modesto Chapter 294
DANCE DRILL: Attitude Plus! Dance Studio, "Do You Wanna Dance?"
COLOR GUARD: Aahmes Shriners, Color Guard and Marching Patrol
FARM ENTRY: Lanting Family, "Lanting's Percherons"
ANTIQUE CAR: Don's Mobile Glass Model T
CLASSIC CAR PRE-1973: Holly Turner firetruck
ANTIQUE CAR CLUB: Modesto Area A's, Model "A" Club
CAR CLUB: Highway 99 PT Cruiser Club
NONPROFIT: E Clampus Vitus Estanislao Chapter 58
CORPORATE: River Journey Adventures
ETHNIC: Filipino-American Association of Stanislaus County, "Beauty in Diversity"
KIDS: Funworks, "Freddy Foreman's Fabulous Day Camp Float"