Traditional Forth of July parade keeps small town traditions alive in LA

The eagle float will be on display at the Westchester July 4th Parade.
The eagle float will be on display at the Westchester July 4th Parade.
Dan Garr

Listen to story

Download this story 2.0MB

In Westchester and Playa del Rey, residents have been gluing and hammering for weeks, getting ready for today.

They've built Mardi Gras style floats to roll down main street in a traditional Small Town, USA July Fourth parade. It's a relatively recent tradition - about 14 years - but the competition among neighbors is fierce.

Elaborate -- and clandestine -- float building has carried on in backyards, school gyms and private parking lots for the past month.

"The fire dept does it, the police dept, boy scouts, Knights of Columbus, all the schools," said Dan Garr, who's a local ace at conceiving and building the 6-foot plus size floats out of wood, cardboard and paper tissue.

His creations have won the Westchester July 4 parade the last 3 years in a row. He thinks he has another winner this year. The theme is environmental: Red White and Blue goes Green.

"What we did is use the bald eagle for the red white and blue, and in its talons is a giant bag of seeds," Garr said. That's the green part. "It says US SEEDS which are being planted and its flowing out behind him."

Kids and parents spent last weekend putting the final touches on the Bald Eagle float in their school parking lot. India, 7, thinks the design is a shoe-in.

"The eagle looks cool and he looks like he might fly away while we’re doing the float," she said.

Gwen Buchass, who founded the parade in 2000 when she was President of the Playa del Rey Chamber of Commerce, said the competition is limited to 50 floats.  Otherwise, the parade would go too long.

Judges will pick three winners before the parade starts: best float, best theme and honorable mention. The prize? Bragging rights, team photo in the local newspaper, and, yes, a trophy for the mantle.