Be warned: the 2014 edition of the parade is all about breaking out your red, white and blue duds.
The biggest day-long party of the year in the 94941, the Memorial Day Parade, along with the pre-parade Mill Valley Volunteer Firefighters’ Association’s Pancake Breakfast and the post-parade Kiddo! Memorial Day Community Celebration (see below), are taking a traditional turn this year. In response to calls from veterans to make the event more traditional, the I Love a Parade Committee is building the parade around the theme of “Honoring Those Who Gave Their Lives for Freedom.”
“It makes sense, especially to remind the children of Mill Valley what this holiday is all about,” said Larry “the Hat” Lautzker, head of the I Love a Parade Committee that runs the event. “We had gotten a bit too far left of what the event is all about. This year, we’re going to be more inclusive of that. It’s a somber day and we’ve kind of disregarded that element of it for a while.”
In addition to fellow committee members Clifford Waldeck and Paul Moe, a subcommittee consisting of longtime prominent local residents Jim Wickham, Stephanie Wickham-Witt, Larry Moss, Chris Raker and Susan Cluff has focused on incorporating a more traditional theme into this year’s parade.
“Break out the Red White and Blue, build wondrous floats, great window displays and show our kids and country how creativity and working together help to create amazing results,” Lautzker said.
Organizers have scheduled a ceremony prior to the parade to honor soldiers from Mill Valley who died during war. The ceremony will be held at Lytton Square, the tree-laden island that splits Throckmorton Ave. between Miller and Corte Madera avenues into two. The island is named for Lytton Barber, Mill Valley’s first WWI casualty.
Lautzker said that while the parade will be much more inclusive of Mill Valley’s original Memorial Day Parade, it won’t lose the community party spirit that has been so evident over the past decade. The parade, which begins at 10:30 at Old Mill School and runs down Miller Avenue to Tam High, regularly draws more than 6,000 spectators each year, and includes more than 60 participants.
Applications to enter are now available online, and must be received by May 23. Entry fees are $75 for commercial entities and $35 for nonprofits.
Mill Valley Volunteer Firefighters' Association Pancake Breakfast
When the Mill Valley Volunteer Firefighters Association launched its annual Pancake Breakfast nearly 20 years ago, John Thompson, Fred Martin, John McClure and Bob Hughes, among others, cobbled together a bunch of portable grills, coolers and propane tanks and prepared to serve up a Memorial Day breakfast for a few hundred people.
And then 800 showed up. And hundreds more showed every year after that, with volunteers serving up some 1,500 to 2,000 plates each and lines forming around the block outside the Mill Valley Fire Department’s downtown station on Corte Madera Avenue.
The massive event is set for 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. on traffic-free Corte Madera Ave. in front of City Hall and outside the fire station with pancakes, eggs, sausage, juice and coffee.
As the Pancake Breakfast has continued to grow over the years, one aspect of it has gone largely unnoticed: the event’s organizers have created quite a mobile kitchen setup that would come in handy in the event of a catastrophic event like a massive wildfire or earthquake, says Mill Valley Volunteer Firefighter Ron Vidal.
“We feed nearly 15 percent of Mill Valley’s population in four hours on that day,” Vidal says of the Pancake Breakfast. “We’re building resiliency and the ability to do a mass feeding if we’re ever in that situation.”
In addition to showcasing an impressive mobile kitchen, the Pancake Breakfast is also the biggest fundraiser of the year for Mill Valley’s volunteer firefighter program. The Mill Valley Fire Department took shape more than 120 years ago as an all-volunteer organization, beating out some fires with wet potato sacks and renting space to store its gear.
“You keep the department strong by continuing to develop that volunteer pool,” Vidal says. “The program creates a candidate pool for the hiring needs for Mill Valley and departments all over Marin and the Bay Area.”
Volunteer program officials estimate that it costs about $4,000 to properly train and equip an active duty firefighter and the group hopes to raise between $10,000 and $15,000 at this year’s event.
Kiddo! Memorial Day Community Celebration
When the float riders, school bands, dignitaries and a bevy of youth groups head to the Mill Valley Community Center after the parade, they’ll have a plenty of fun in front of them.
That includes the final day of the four-day Carnival, which begins Friday at noon and wraps up at 5 p.m. Monday. With more than 15 rides, from the Berry-Go-Round and Tune Train for little ones to the Sizzler, Zipper, Tilt-A-Whirl and Texas Tornado, are being provided by Sacramento-based California Carnival Company.
After an eight-year hiatus, the Carnival was revived in 2012 as part of the 30th anniversary party for Kiddo. The event has become the centerpiece of Memorial Day weekend on the property around the Community Center and Mill Valley Middle School.
Advance $20 ticket books are available in the Kiddo! office at the Mill Valley School District from May 19 May 22 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and on May 23 from 9 a.m. to noon. Advance tickets will also be sold outside the Mill Valley Community Center during the week leading up to the Carnival – times TBD. Ticket books are $30 once the carnival begins. Books may be turned in for a one-day wrist band for unlimited rides. Food and games are extra.
Aside from rides, the Community Celebration features food from the likes of Piazza D'Angelo, Beth's Community Kitchen, Nothing Bundt Cake, among others. And as in year's past, a Concert on the Green, sponsored by the Sweetwater Music Hall & Cafe, will keep attendees dancing throughout the afternoon.Local prodigies Matt Jaffe & the Distractions get things started at noon, followed by Lebo & Friends, fronted by Lebo (Dan Lebowitz), a founding member of ALO. Melvin Seals & the JGB headline, playing the music of the late and legendary Grateful Dead guitarist Jerry Garcia.
The 411: The annual Mill Valley Volunteer Firefighters Association’s Pancake Breakfast takes place from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. on traffic-free Corte Madera Ave. in front of City Hall and outside the fire station with pancakes, eggs, juice and coffee. Fees are $7 for adults and $5 for kids with all proceeds to benefit the Mill Valley Volunteer Firefighters Association to equip a new batch of volunteer recruits.
The Mill Valley Memorial Day Parade begins at 10:30 at Old Mill School and runs down Miller Avenue to Tam High, regularly draws more than 6,000 spectators each year, and includes more than 60 participants. Applications to enter are now available online, and must be received by May 23. Entry fees are $75 for commercial entities and $35 for nonprofits.
The Kiddo! Memorial Day Community Celebration runs from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. Monday. The four-day Carnival is Friday 4 p.m. to 10 p.m., Saturday and Sunday from 12 p.m. to 10 p.m. and Monday 12 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Here's a video about from the 2014 Mill Valley Memorial Day Parade website about this year's theme: