The population of Calistoga probably doubled on Thursday as thousands of people lined Cedar Street and Lincoln Avenue to watch the annual Fourth of July parade.
For Mayor Chris Canning, who has lived in Calistoga for 13 years and attended 13 parades, the Fourth of July is “a celebration of everything we stand for, freedom, family and friends. It is just one of those amazing days that we are fortunate to have a parade here in Calistoga for all of Napa County, continuing that tradition year after year.”
Canning joined other elected officials from Napa County, including District 3 Supervisor Diane Dillon, on a cable car at the beginning of the parade, right after a group of Calistoga fire trucks and Parade Marshal Mike Swanton, who wore a huge, red, white and blue top hat. Also on the cable car was Congressman Mike Thompson, who calls St. Helena home.
On Cedar Street, prior to the beginning of the parade, Councilman Don Williams and his wife, Charlotte, were standing by their decorated tandem bike, chatting with Angwin resident Mike Hackett.
For Don Williams, the holiday reminds us that “independence and a sense of liberty is crucial,” he said. “It is crucial for our way of life. I honor it, I respect it and I’m grateful for it.” Beyond that, though, in Calistoga, the Fourth of July holiday symbolizes “our freedom to move and think, and to treat each other respectfully,” he added.
He and Charlotte rode their decorated tandem in the parade, and Williams vowed he was not going to fall off.
When Hackett was asked the meaning of the Fourth of July, he said, “I would like to comment about Calistoga. It seems we have lost a sense of community and respect for our fellow man and the awareness of that and it still is really strong here as evidenced by people of all colors, races and creeds, all here loving one another.” He added the parade is “a really, really feel good event here in Calistoga.”
Police Chief Mitch Celaya was directing the parade entries as they turned from Cedar Street to Lincoln Avenue. He has been a part of seven parades since he was hired in Calistoga, and he said he enjoys interacting with people who come to the downtown to celebrate the parade. “It’s amazing,” he said.
For him, the Fourth of July “means a lot of things. It means freedom, a celebration of the United States, it means diversity and it means all kinds of things, which is why people want to come here,” in part for the opportunities.
The parade certainly showed the diversity, from people wearing American flag-patterned clothing, both in the parade and watching it, to dancing horses from Rancho Centurion of Napa to the large tow trucks from the Pope Valley Garage to the Mexican dancers of Ballet Folklorica to the Napa Valley Model A Clubs and to the World B Dance Collective and New Era Beats Brigade, which ended the parade.
One of those participating in the parade was Fran Campion, who was dressed in a red and white polka-dot dress with a blue wig.
She entered “Betty,” her 1963 red Mercury Comet convertible, in the parade and she and a friend, also with a summer dress and blue wig, waved to the crowd as they were driven down Lincoln Avenue. Her comment before the parade began, “We’re ready to have some fun today.”
St. Helena’s Valerie Carrasceo brought a crew of small children to the parade and sat on the sunny side of Lincoln Avenue. She said, “We’re here to watch the parade, have some fun, hang out together in the sun and enjoy the weather.” Before the parade began, she said she and her daughter were excited to see some horses.
Tom and Linda Scheibal, Calistoga residents since 1978, have attended nearly every parade in those 41 years. Tom Scheibal said, “I started off when my son was 6 and he’s 45 now. I’ve been coming to a lot of parades.”
When asked about the meaning of the holiday, he said, “Well this particular Fourth of July is like a Norman Rockwell painting. He’s one of my heroes as an artist, and you can never get anything more American, more quaint, more heart of America,” than a parade. And it happens, “right here in our town and in our valley.”
St. Helena’s Dave Killoran talked about what the Fourth of July means to him: “That’s a great question. Obviously, it is a celebration of America and the values that built this country.” He said he has lived in St. Helena for the past five years and has attended every parade since then. His favorite entry this year? “I liked the Mexican dancers, contrary to my prior answer,” he said.
The parade was presented by Celebrate! Napa Valley, a part of the Napa County Fair Association.