Monday, May 25, 2009

Topanga Days Parade

Each Memorial Day weekend for the past 36 years, the Topanga Community Club presents Topanga Days - a free-wheeling festival celebrating our community's hippy-dippy let-it-all-hang-out heritage.

The festival takes place up at the Community House, ranged over the ballfields and play areas, and features music, vendors and food. People from all over Southern California come to wear their tie-dye and get their groove on.

On the final day - on Memorial Day itself - is the Parade. This is something even those of us who avoid the fair enjoy.

Anyone who wants to can participate. All you need is a set of wheels and a lot of imagination. Some peace signs, paper flowers, and maybe a dog wearing a ballet skirt.

Everyone comes down to the boulevard to watch. Some people bring their cars or trucks, if the distance from home is far. There's nothing like the roof of a pick-up truck as a perch to watch the Parade! People bring thermoses of coffee, bagels or donuts, and some even sip mimosas!

This year it started with a marching band - with stilt-walkers. They were flanked by a peace-sign-wearing bicyclist with a little dog in her basket.

There were horseback riders.

You can walk or roll.

It's fun for all ages.

If you're used to well-organized and regimented Parades, this one's a little different. Some participants go far ahead and then circle back. Some floats cut in front of one another. Others stop in front of large crowds and perform a routine.

This morning, the fire department, sirens blaring, drove past the marching band and everything stopped for a while. We don't know why, but it didn't matter.

The line often blurs between participants and audience. Here, a spectator is having a chat with someone on a float, during a brief lull.

Some people come out of the crowd to join a float in progress. Kids bring their skateboards and ride along the route.

The floats can be elaborate, like this mirror-covered SUV.

I liked this - Peace Love and Real Estate - a rustic Topanga cottage with a knocked-down price.

Here's a float pulling a float - a miniature float for Barbies!

This float has every essential element - an American flag, a surfboard, pretty girls, paper flowers, a rock band wearing Hawaiian shirts, and a fat old guy in a bathrobe, drinking margaritas.

Back a few years ago, when our son was younger, the Topanga Day Parade was celebrated with squirt guns and water balloons. Both spectators and participants stocked loads of water balloons and wielded squirt guns and supersoakers, and everyone ended up getting soaked. Supersoaker technology assured an escalated arms race each year.

This antique fire engine was the Mother of All Water Weapons; one year it let loose and hosed the spectators down.

Sometimes there was collateral damage. I remember one year a shining BMW traveling through slowed down to marvel at the crowds of winged fairies on rollerblades and bandana-wearing dogs. Someone from the crowd lofted a waterballoon that soared in a perfect arc right through the open sunroof - a perfect hit.

For years the California Highway Patrol has reluctantly tolerated the parade, and each water-soaked year they've threatened to shut it down for ever. Then, one year, a line was crossed - some unknown culprit loaded bleach in their Super-soaker water. After that a strict weapons ban was declared. No more water allowed at the Parade!

After all - it's supposed to be about Peace! Now they throw candy at the spectators. It's a lot better than getting soaked, although sometimes you can get beaned by a flying tootsie roll.

Fortunately, the peace has held, and the CHP allows the parade, shutting down traffic on the boulevard for two hours. Folks need a day to get crazy, and hula-dance barefoot in the middle of a state highway. I'm wondering where her shoes are.

Other people are more staid and safe, but still have fun.

It helps to be nice to the authorities. Here someone offers the Fire Department some fresh strawberries.

This year the Parade ended with a bit of unintended theatre. Yes - this is a "float" - a truck full of trash to promote recycling. No fairy-wings and paper flowers for him! Only as he slowly kept pace with the rest of the parade, his engine stalled. He cranked the starter. No luck. Out of gas?

No matter. Helpful folks from the crowd joined in to push him down the road. I wonder if he finished the route!

That's Topanga Days!


Tristan Robin Blakeman said...


it's like reliving high school!

I love it!!!

Gary Rith Pottery Blog said...

so that was you, in the leather pants with the studded bustier?

Life with Kaishon said...

That sounds like so much fun : ). I would LOVE to see a parade like that some day! Kaish loved the pictures too! Especially the tutu hula skirts and the roller skates : ).

kcinnova said...

What a fun time! That is a parade I would definitely enjoy. :)
(I often avoid them... too much control makes them boring)

Gilly said...

that looks like a huge lot of fun! Makes me smile just loking at the photos!

cactus petunia said...

The big guy in the bathrobe? I'm pretty sure that was "The Dude"...And was that a White Russian in his hand?

We have a parade in our neighborhood coming up for Rose's a kids-only parade, but nothing quite as exotic as Topanga Days!

LoriSB said...

the "float" who stalled, stalled later ... had to be pushed further up ... wonder if it was part of the act?

Minnesota Matron said...

Okay: These are my people. I should totally live there!

Stumblebee said...

ohh no, the over heating of our gold bronco was not part of the act. it seems to happen every year though, two years ago the same car (decorated differently) ran out of gas and we had to take our skates off and push it home, this year was easier though b/c we got pushed

Beverly said...

Fabulous! It appears a great time was had by all.

Stumblebee said...

well, i just read the article, after commenting on it. i didnt realize two cars got pushed this year

that's topanga for ya!

Woman in a Window said...

That parade speaks community...and just a few weirdos. My kinda parade! Gotta love a garbage float!

I am a Tornado ~ proven fact! said...

Looks beautiful. so full of color and texture ... all different - like a rainbow of people.

g said...

Stumblebee - Oh, you were the ones with the skaters in bumblebee suits tagging along behind?

I was at Entrada. Your fuel must have gotten you farther than that. The trash truck pooped out right in front of where Sassafras used to be.

so who won the best float contest?

Whiskeymarie said...

If we had parades like that around here, I might actually participate. This looks like so much fun and a good way to spend a morning.