Thousands throng downtown for Modesto institution: Fourth of July parade

07/04/2014 4:03 PM

07/05/2014 6:42 AM

Thousands of people packed downtown streets Friday to see a Modesto institution – the city’s 140th annual Fourth of July Parade.

They watched a cross-section of the community pass before them, from a beauty queen in a Corvette and Cub Scouts on bicycles to politicians on floats and cheerleaders handing out candy. The Modesto Kiwanis Club organized the parade, which featured about 120 entries.

The Salvation Army, United Way and Modesto Symphony Orchestra were this year’s grand marshals, which was the first time nonprofit organizations have been given that honor, said Kiwanis Club parade chairman Jeremiah Williams. He said the parade raised the community’s awareness of the organizations’ good work.

In Turlock, an Independence Day parade drew thousands of spectators and featured politicians, classic cars, and religious and civic groups. There was a street fair and car show after the parade, and a large fireworks show at the Stanislaus County Fairground at dusk.

As in past years, some Modesto parade-goers turned out hours before the event to secure prime seating in the shade.

“We love the parade – the marching bands, the veterans, the classic cars, everything. We are here every year,” said Deborah Rose, as she sat in a folding chair in the shade of 11th Street between her husband and a friend. Rose said they arrived at 7 a.m. to get their spots, about 21/2 hours before the parade started.

The parade included E Clampus Vitus Chapter 58, the fraternal organization known for its irreverence, love of the Old West and community service. The entry included a contingent of Clampers pushing lawn mowers, a nod to their volunteer work maintaining the grounds of historic cemeteries.

The parade represented a panorama of Modesto, from classic cars showcasing the city’s love affair with anything with four wheels and an internal combustion engine – preferably one that produces lots of horsepower – to the community’s agricultural roots. Wood Colony – the close-knit farming community – was in the parade for the first time.

The Khmer-American Citizens Association of Modesto also turned out to highlight the local Cambodian community.

Allen Velthoen, 65, was among the first-time entrants. He was behind the wheel of a lovingly restored 1922 Packard touring car. His dad found the car in 1953 in a Modesto barn and bought it. Velthoen said his dad’s wish was to restore the automobile and drive it in the parade. Velthoen fulfilled that dream Friday.

“I’ve waited my whole life to do this,” he said.

Ten-year-old Jacqui Clark is a parade veteran. He took part last year walking with the Clampers entry with his dad and on Friday as a member of Modesto Cub Scout Pack 14. The Scouts were on bicycles and scooters as they completed the roughly 1-mile parade route.

“It was really fun,” he said, “hanging out with my friends, riding my bike, waving to the people. And I got to ride my bike. I don’t get to do it (enough). I had a very fun day. I love parades.”

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