A Behind the Scenes Look of the July 4th Parade
By Office of Communication
Posted on July 05, 2012, July 05, 2012

If you've lived in Arlington for more than five minutes, you probably know at least a little something about one of the city's oldest annual traditions, the Arlington 4th of July Parade. What you may not know is that the parade is entirely managed by volunteers who work almost year-round to deliver the signature community event, which is frequently recognized as one of the largest holiday parades in the region.

"A lot of people don't realize that the parade organizers aren't affiliated with the City," said June Owens, the president of the Arlington 4th of July Association. "We certainly need the City's support, but it also takes many volunteers working the day of the event and year-round to make the parade happen."

Owens said that the event dates back to 1965, when the first group of volunteers staged a tiny parade at Randol Mill Park. As participation grew, the parade eventually moved to downtown Arlington, where it frequently garners state and national media attention and as many as 75,000 parade watchers.

Sizzling temperatures are not uncommon for parade day, which is one reason why organizers limit entries to accommodate an approximate two-hour start-to-finish timeline. But in nearly 50 years, "we've never had a rained-out parade, knock on wood," according to Owens.

"We've come close, and we've been thunderstorm-delayed before," she said. "I remember one year when I dropped off leftover breakfast food at Mission Arlington right as it started to rain, but we were finished then."

Like many parade volunteers, Owens has a long-standing association with the event, an effort she describes as a "labor of love".

"We've got a diversity of volunteers," she said. "Our current secretary is a young working mom, I'm semi-retired, we have younger, older, folks who own their own business, school teachers.

"But some of them have been doing this for 20 and 30 years, and they are about ready to step down," she said. "We're relying on word of mouth to help us get new volunteers who can step up to take their places."

One of the most complex volunteer assignments involves the sequence of the parade lineup and the staging area.

"We have a cutoff date for entries for parade for a reason," explained Owens. "It's not just a matter of sticking someone at the end of the line. There are a lot of logistics involved that require the work of more than one person. There's a lot that goes into the process of deciding who goes where in the lineup, more than what most people would think."

Parade Fast Facts:

  • The parade has an annual budget of about $15,000, raised primarily through sponsorships.
  • Parade planning begins in August.
  • In the days before the parade, floats are serviced and stored at the Arlington ISD "bus barn" under the supervision of a parade volunteer.
  • Non-Arlington residents serve as parade judges.
  • Depending on the weather and the day of the week, the event draws as many as 150 participants and 25,000-75,000 parade watchers.

by Rhonda Aghamalian


Photos by Pat Rutland

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