Our Bicentennial 4th of July Parade: The People’s Voice

By City Archivist Kathie Schey

In preparing to celebrate our nation’s Bicentennial on July 4, 1976, our City formed a unique planning and events committee more than a year in advance.  A long list of activities included bicycle rides, a Main Street celebration, and a mock Olympics.  A “Wagon Train Pilgrimage” lumbered through town on its way to Philadelphia.

Planning for the Independence Day Parade took center stage.  First and foremost, in this especially auspicious year, the parade needed a glorious theme that would resonate with meaning and reflect the sentiments of our citizens.  Our Public Information Office was assigned to run a “Theme and Essay” contest to select one.

Entries poured in from a broad cross-section of people.  A housewife submitted hers on pink gingham stationery, another person on a greeting card featuring baby goats.  Business people sent in typed entries.  Other submissions appeared on everything from construction paper to fine onionskin. Many reflected on the times.  An Edison High School student submitted “Right On, America!” Another entry asked, “Where else can you be elected to office, worship freely, or make a funny record about the president?”

Children offered their unique points of view.  “America is neat because of how it started with the Indians and Pilgrims.  How they worked their way to freedom.” One 9-year-old noted the opportunity to visit “Disneyland, Knox (sic) Berry Farm and Magic Mountain.” Several children sent in pencil sketches of Betsy Ross.  One young boy wrote about the opportunity to live in peace and harmony and festooned his entry with drawings of flags, the Bill of Rights, and the Liberty Bell.

However, the vast majority of entries were somber reflections of patriotism and love of country.  One woman, a 32-year-old mother of five, wrote, “I gave them life, but America has given them their freedom.” Liberty was frequently mentioned as was opportunity and the rights granted to our citizens by our Constitution, “…an enduring legal, political, and spiritual framework in which to achieve our destiny.” One submitter described America as “a magic curtain drawn open on a vast stage called freedom.” A school teacher wrote: “Here, the fresh breeze of freedom still stirs the soul and lifts our hearts.”

Ultimately, by an overwhelming majority of votes, the theme chosen was Let Freedom Ring! On May 6, 1976, a Proclamation was made by the California State Senate naming our Huntington Beach Fourth of July Parade the official Bicentennial Parade for the entire state!