Small town events may seem hokey or at best quaint to some, but I have a soft spot in my heart for them. I grew up in the tiny Delta town of Walnut Grove. When I was a youngster its population was around 500 give or take a stray dog or two. Every Fourth of July the volunteer fire department would hold it’s annual Independence Day parade. The department’s two fire trucks would drive through the streets of the town, sirens blaring, to beckon children to hop on their bikes to join in the parade. We kids would attach playing cards to the spokes of our wheels to get a Harley-esque rumble as we rode. At the end of the short procession we would all get popsicles for our participation.
This past Fourth of July Stockton also celebrated Independence Day with a parade. Even though Stockton is a mid-sized California city, and the parade was considerably bigger than the ones of my youth, it still had a small town charm to it.
The parade route was short and sweet, wending its way through just 7 blocks of downtown Stockton (from Sutter at Washington Streets to Weber Avenue, over to San Joaquin Street and back down to Washington). People enthusiastically lined the streets to wave and applaud the entries.
It had your typical things that one would expect in a Fourth of July parade. The Karl Ross American Legion Post had its Silent Sentinels rolling display of flags of deceased veterans escorted by other vets along each side of it. There were the obligatory bright red fire engines along with Miss San Joaquin and her court. There were candidates running for every seat from city council to assembly using every form of transportation from automobiles to pedaled-rickshaws to on foot.
But while the day was about celebrating out “Americaness,” also on display was the strength of Stockton’s rich heritage of diversity.
A group from the Stockton Gudwara or Sikh Temple wearing traditional turbans and Sikh military uniforms demonstrated the Sikh martial arts known as gatka. They skillfully lunged and twirled all manner of exotic weaponry.
Watching it all was a young man wearing a stars and stripes tank top and a similar plush top hat. German exchange student Manuel Hamann, fresh from watching Germany’s World Cup win over France, waved two small U.S. flags as he enjoyed the “Americaness,” the “Stocktoness” and the small town roots of the day.