Like love and marriage, a horse and carriage, the Fourth of July and the word celebration go hand in hand. Though it’s been a good 24 hours since the 2011 Antioch Fourth of July of parade faded into the local history books, can you honestly blame me for still feeling the goose bumps? After a year’s downtown’s absence, Antioch got its mojo back.
Frankly, it was exhilarating to again hum “Yankee Doodle Dandy” in the shadow of the El Campanil Theatre, marching a relative stone’s throw from the San Joaquin River in this vintage Americana classic that dates back locally 142 years. In 1869, 60 residents first gathered. That grew into a crowd of 1,600 the following year as the train brought miners and their families from the Black Diamond area.
Admittedly, I’m a sucker for classic cars, motorcyles, low-riders, Clydesdale horses, cultural costumes, dance troupes, floats, scout and veterans groups, and the sentiment-stirring likes. I also must confess that I’m an easy mark for unabashed silliness, something we probably all need more of in this turbulent world. My better half, Cynthia, and I never miss marching in a parade. In years past we have taken the roles of Sonny and Cher, Superman and Superwoman, Elvis and Priscilla, Bill and Monica, Popeye and Olive.
I’m glad to report abundant like-minded fun-lovers this year as, on short notice no less, Antioch had some 60 organizations strut their stuff. Granted, no fireworks for this privately funded event, but also no attendant $85,000 bill. This year we scratched the $5,000 barge cost, $1,000 per minute aerial artillery costs and the expense of scores of overtime police for a night-time crowd.
Hopefully, private business sponsorship or a parking or entrance fee may yet bring fireworks back to Antioch. Oakley, Concord, Martinez, Pleasanton and San Ramon had shows, after all. This Rivertown revival was, though, at least a start. Some four to five thousand locals tickled their inner child celebrating the most American of holidays, a collective national birthday bash. In these angst-ridden and fractious times, the cheer and communal bonding were priceless.
Incidentally, if anybody wants a CD of the event, for $10 you can relive the day. All proceeds defray the day’s security costs. Contact walter.ruehlig @gmail.com or call 925-756-7628.
Let’s acknowledge the many helping hands. First and foremost, thanks to Louise Green, the tireless logistics manager. Assuredly, I couldn’t ‘t have pulled the event off without her magic. Kudos to: Allen Payton for promotion; Martha Parsons for asking the Kiwanis Club of the Delta-Antioch to sponsor event insurance; Luns Louie and his photographer crew of Steve Benson, Vanessa Boscia and Megan Louie; sound man Mike Green; emcee David Bates; Mayor Jim Davis for soliciting Allied Waste for port-a-potties; the Chamber of Commerce for coordinating participant applications and donations; Nicolas Welzenbach of Oak View Memorial for lending his meeting room; the American Legion, Post 161, for donating $200; Tim Forrester for lending a nifty Benz and red Corvette; the Patriot Sentinels for trophies; Susan Bonilla’s office for certificates of recognition; the award judges, Maris Bennett, Sandy Henry, Barbara and Len Herendeen, and Genny Payne-Nice; event committee members Connie Clement, Sue Davis, Tony Fettig, Tom Karas, Leslie Scudero, Larry Thomas, and Nancy and Patrick Tofoya; day of event volunteers Melodie and Russ Guthrie, Mary and Roy Ledofrd, Gil Murillo, Mark Nottsend, Janet Pagano, Debbie and Steve Posthauer, Karen Rogers, and Sue and Kent Wiser.
Congratulations to the trophy winners: Dancers Elite for the Mayor’s Award for Best Patriotic Music Performance; East County Military Families for Best Patriotic Float; American Legion Post 161 for Best Patriotic Club; Sons of Italy for Best Patriotic Cultural Group; and Boy Scout Troop 151 for Best Patriotic Scout Troop.
We can all be proud that Antioch, long a bastion of patriotism and wholesome values, didn’t give in to hand-wringers but stayed resolute and honored the words of Daniel Webster: “May the sun in his course visit no land more free, more happy, more lovely than this our own country.”
Walter Ruehlig, Antioch