The Swallows Day Parade in San Juan Capistrano, California, is an all-cowboy affair since the rumor is there are at least as many horses as humans living in the town. By tradition, no motorized vehicles are allowed so the parade consists of large equestrian units from all over Orange County, horse and buggy riders, walking and bicycle units, and of course all the dignitaries, dressed like cowboys–on horseback. The big joke around town is that although the early spring parade is meant to celebrate the swallows returning to Capistrano, the silly birds are actually nowhere to be seen. To celebrate their absence further, for parade week the local theater always writes a melodrama and never misses a line “the swallows will return to Capistrano,” or something to that effect. Then the MC holds up the cue card “laugh” and the audience roars. It is definitely the highlight of the evening for the small crowd in the tiny theater.
But back to parades. Each summer before we moved to Blaine, Washington, my husband and I would drive from San Juan Capistrano to Blaine, where we kept our boat so we could cruise the other San Juan’s–the islands. We never missed the 4th of July parade in this Canadian border town and I couldn’t help but compare and contrast it to Capistrano. There were almost no horses. It’s always led, of course, by the colors, and followed by a Blaine fire engine. then ambulances, maybe one marching band and a bag pipe unit, individuals walking their red, white, and blue decorated pets (goats and dogs mostly), kids on decorated bicycles trailing bunting and balloons, boats on trailers, people dressed in the colors of the flag walking and waving to their friends sitting on the curb and tractors, tractors, tractors. Blaine’s 4th of July parade is held in small town America, but it has grown into a huge affair and several thousand people, from all the surrounding towns, and Canada, now line the curbs to watch America go by.
Happy 4th of July
P.S. I found out where the swallows went one summer as we drove on I5 toward Sacramento, on our way to Blaine. The landscape is flat and barren, but part of the California aqueduct runs through the area for agricultural purposes. If you look up under the overpasses, you can see hundreds of swallow’s nests fastened to the bottom of them–they need the water to make their mud dwellings.