Pomp and Circumstance

Longtime Manhattan Beach resident and 2012 MB Centennial Parade chair Jan Dennis reflects on 100 years of bands, batons and balloons by the beach.

Can you remember your first parade? Watching one or participating in one? The decorated units, clowns handing out colorful balloons and the uniform tapping of feet as stately marching bands pass by … what excitement!

Manhattan Beach’s parade history began in 1909, well before city incorporation. For the advancement of the town, parades  and the Fourth of July fireworks have an especially dramatic impact. Arriving on the Los Angles Pacific Electric Red Car, people came from around the area to take part in the spectacle of the fireworks and the gaily decorated bikes and buggies in the “hometown” parade.

In 1915, as the town’s coffers increased, the local parade and fireworks show continued to promote the growing community. However, the city’s board of trustees felt the city should take part in the Pasadena Tournament of Roses Parade, which at the time was one of the best advertising mediums presented to cities in Southern California. The board appropriated $100 to defray the expense of entry, but the float never happened. December 1915 came with fierce winter storms, and no one could find a shelter large enough to protect a float in development.

During the Depression, a popular light construction project persuaded the city to try again, and Manhattan Beach had its first float in 1934. Subsidized by the city, the float depicted a graceful white seagull with huge outstretched wings grazing the edge of the Pacific. Three years later, the city went on to win first place for the best float in its division, a 32-foot-long creation called A Fisherman’s Romance. In 1938, the city’s last entry earned second place, displaying more than 10,000 blooms to create a gigantic starfish.

During the second World War, the city’s parades promoted the sale of war bonds. On December 6, 1942, the town observed Pearl Harbor Day and for the first time displayed all units of the Civilian Defense organizations. The parade started at City Hall and continued to the new Victory House at 1108 Manhattan Avenue.

There were many changes made in the post-war years, one of which was greater involvement by the Chamber of Commerce. As the community continued to prosper, the parades would now be handled by the Chamber. Residents have always loved to see the community parades, and this 100th anniversary of city incorporation will be no different.

On May 19, Manhattan Beach will have one of the finest gatherings of organizations, businesses and churches, all celebrating our seaside community home. To date, the parade committee has 70 entries participating in the event. Awards will be given for best musical unit, float, use of theme and best community entry regardless of division.

The parade will start at 10 a.m. at Pacific Avenue and Manhattan Beach Boulevard and travel east to Redondo Boulevard. Young or young at heart, hurry down … before the parade passes by.