By Kevin Newhouse
It is a day of celebration and community. Everyone is smiling, laughing, and having a great time. We have an opportunity to meet and form a connection with our neighbors. Nobody complains about the crowds or the street closure. We forget about our problems and allow ourselves to just have fun! For a short period of time, we get that small-town feel back in Aptos.
Some people have been coming to the parade for decades and have seen the growth over the years. For those folks who are first time attendees, don’t let the name of the parade fool you…this may be world’s shortest parade in distance but definitely not in duration! The parade will cover approximately 0.6 miles beginning at the intersection of Soquel Drive and State Park Drive and ending at the Bay View Hotel and is scheduled to run from 10 a.m. – 12 p.m.
Every year I get the opportunity to write and talk about the history of the parade, which may sound like a repetitive ordeal, but the story is fascinating, unique, and worth telling over and over again! For instance, did you know the origins of the parade have nothing to do with Independence Day? That’s right. In fact, the parade was actually a celebration that began on Memorial Day!
In 1961, Lucille Aldrich, along with Anne Isaacs, Babe Toney, and others, formed the Aptos Ladies Tuesday Evening Society. They organized to defeat a proposed zoning change that would have allowed a cement batching plant to be built in the center of Aptos Village. Their efforts were successful. A celebratory barbecue was held on Memorial Day. The event was so popular that a parade and potluck were planned to follow on the fourth of July. Everyone turned out in old-fashioned clothing and the Monterey Bay Antique Car Club brought 18 vintage cars.
Originally, the parade route began at the Driftwood Gas Station at Soquel and Trout Gulch Road (the location of today’s Bay Federal Credit Union), went to the Pop Inn restaurant (the location previously occupied by Little Owl and soon to be the Parish Publick House), and back to the Bay View Hotel. The parade lasted less than ten minutes, which is how it earned the name “The World’s Shortest Parade.” The only food available were the lunches brought by some of the celebrants! Everyone showed up and everyone had a good time. “Nobody in the village saw the parade that year, because everybody was in it,” claimed Lucille Aldrich.
There was, however, a small bit of drama when Arne Jensen, a former Aptos Village merchant, dressed up as a turn-of-the-century police officer and directed traffic around the parade. Aldrich remembers “a terrible crisis came up when a California Highway Patrol officer came up and was going to arrest Arne for impersonating an officer. But when the rest of us showed up in costume, the cop became convinced that we weren’t impersonating anything … just having fun.”
As the years passed, the parade became more and more popular.
In its second year, a number of visitors stopped to view the parade when the Sun Tan Special, the train that once transported visitors from the San Francisco peninsula to Santa Cruz, passed through Aptos Village. “It was a happy coincidence that the parade coincided with the train passing through,” recalled Lucile Aldrich. This was also the year that games were added to the festivities. There was a watermelon eating contest, horseshoes, sack races, and more!
By the third year, a food booth with chili, coffee, and pies was added courtesy of the American Legion Post. Santa Cruz Dairy Farms provided ice cream for the event and even brought a couple of live cows with them for a milking contest…a tradition that lasted about 5 years until the herd was moved away.
The food and games were eventually moved down to Aptos Village Park, which the county purchased and developed (with a lot of help from volunteers) in 1974. However, in 1987, another great tradition began with the addition of the pancake breakfast. It was originally a joint venture with the Aptos Chamber of Commerce and the Aptos Lions Club but is currently organized by the Chamber and the Santa Cruz County Sheriff Search and Rescue Team.
In 1992, after thirty years of successful organization, the Aptos Ladies Tuesday Evening Society retired from the job and turned the parade over to the Aptos Chamber of Commerce.
So as you enjoy your pancake breakfast, watching the parade, and enjoying the party in the park after the parade, I invite you to take a moment and remember the Aptos Ladies Tuesday Evening Society.
It was their rebellious act of protest that resulted in the parade we all love today. Enjoy and be safe!
For more information about the Aptos History Museum, upcoming events, or becoming a member of the museum, please visit www.aptoshistory.org and follow us on Facebook and Instagram @aptos_history_museum.
Schedule of Events
Pancake Breakfast • 7 a.m. – 10 a.m.
Located at burger., Aptos across form Safeway. Hosted by the Aptos Chamber of Commerce. Sponsored by burger. Aptos, Kiss Catering, Severino’s Bar and Grill, Best Western Seacliff Inn, Pacific Coffee Company & Safeway
World’s Shortest Parade • 10 a.m. – 12 p.m.
Begins at Well’s Fargo and ends at the Bay View Hotel. Hosted by the Aptos Chamber of Commerce. Sponsored by Allen Property Group, Palo Alto Medical Foundation, Green Waste, Earth Works, Wells Fargo, Coldwell Banker, Aptos Feed & Times Publishing Group.
Party in the Park • 11 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Family fun day! Something for the whole family: kids games, face painting, pony rides, archery, zorbs, food trucks, caterers, and special guest artist EXTRA LARGE!
Sponsored by: New Leaf Community Markets, ACE Portable Services & Green Waste