A hometown July 4th parade | June 24, 2011 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |


Palo Alto Weekly

News - June 24, 2011

A hometown July 4th parade

Tight-knit Greenmeadow community prepares for star-spangled festivities neighborhood-style

by Jeff Carr

Last Tuesday, June 21, David, Sigrid and Fraser Pinsky adjusted the pinwheels on their homemade Fourth of July parade igloo float. That's right — igloo — as in "Winter Wonderland," which is the theme of this year's Greenmeadow Association Independence Day parade.

The annual festivities, which have been in existence since the Eichler neighborhood was built in 1954, have many imaginative themes through the years, such as Inventors and Under the Sea, although perhaps none as openly defiant of the calendar.

"It's something we've never done before," said Sigrid Pinsky, co-chair of the Greenmeadow Community Association social committee.

Greenmeadow is a tight-knit, 270-home neighborhood on the south edge of Palo Alto, located behind the Cubberley Community Center. Residents have their own association community center, pool and park, which was part of developer Joseph Eichler's vision for creating a cohesive neighborhood in lifestyle as well as architecturally. Members of the community can join the association for a fee to enjoy the center's benefits.

The July 4 parade is an essential part of the community's tradition. The celebration has remained virtually unchanged for 57 years, lending the holiday a traditional small-town feel.

A full day of activities opens with a kids' triathlon and 1K and 5K runs for adults, Pinsky said.

The main event, Greenmeadow's annual parade, follows, originating at the community center at 303 Parkside Drive and meandering through the neighborhood and back to the adjacent park. Floats, a marching band, color guard, drill team and more are all made up of community residents.

Longtime resident Bob Shaw usually plays clarinet in the band, but can slide over to saxophone if necessary. "It really is a neighborhood band," he said of the group that only comes together to practice on the five evenings leading up to July 4. "Most of us play elsewhere in the community, but some people just grab their horns once a year to come and toot away with us. We have a great time."

Following the parade, activities include field and pool games, prizes for parade floats and participants, a barbecue, and then separate parties on each of Greenmeadow's 22 blocks, she said. "It only works if all people participate at some level," Pinsky said.

Overall attendance for the day's events is expected to be somewhere near 1,000 people, composed primarily of residents and nearby "associate members," who enjoy some communal benefits but lack voting status in the community association, Pinsky said.

The parade contributes in many ways to the residents' sense of togetherness; though it's not the community's only annual celebration, it is highly anticipated, she said. "Even if I didn't do anything, people would still come just the same." Shaw said many people who have moved out of the neighborhood like to come back for the festivities, allowing residents to reunite with old friends. Fourteen members of his own family are coming this year, some from as far away as Massachusetts. "It's a lovely tradition," Shaw said.

The Fourth of July parade encapsulates the small-town feel, with its emphasis on togetherness and tradition in the heart of the greater Silicon Valley.

"It's just so charming and unchanging," Pinsky said of the patriotic and eternally traditional neighborhood celebration.

"I've lived here for 20 years, and this will be my 20th year crying at the parade," she said.

Editorial Intern Jeff Carr can be emailed at jcarr@paweekly.com.