Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Brandon Fourth of July parade honors area pioneers


As the black convertible approached, kids squinted. No sign of beads. No candy.

From inside the car, under a wide-brimmed red hat, 89-year-old Helen Mulrennan Young waved a small American flag at the passing crowd.

"Happy Fourth," she said, softly.

"Happy Fourth!" Brandon Fourth of July paradegoers returned.

Young is the last remaining immediate member of an East Hillsborough pioneer family, the granddaughter of John Mulrennan, who came from Ireland in 1874 and farmed 160 acres in what is now Valrico.

For much of Young's life, Brandon was a cow town filled with orange groves and pastures. State Road 60 wasn't paved. When she'd go to the grocery store after work, she knew almost everyone.

Now, the Brandon Fourth of July parade is billed as the biggest in the state. About 30,000 show up most years, dressed in stars and stripes. They bring umbrellas and firecrackers.

On this year — an election year — the parade was about a dozen floats longer.

But before politics came history: Mike Brandon. Claire Simmons Bryan.

This year, parade organizers wanted to honor members of these pioneer families.

Four participated in the parade.

Young's maiden name, plastered on the side of the convertible, caught the attention of some children.

"That's my middle school!" one girl exclaimed.

Born in a wood house that burned down in 1934, Young was the youngest of eight.

She spent her childhood picking peas and part of her adulthood raising a son while waiting tables seven days a week.

Times could be tough for her husband, who worked in construction.

"I did what I needed to do," she said.

Independence is a luxury that came with age, aided by a well-off second husband and a grown son who joined the U.S. Air Force and eventually settled in Valrico.

These days, Young spends her time doing exactly what she wants.

She crochets blankets to minister to others. She's active in Kiwanis International.

She spends time with her great-grandchildren, ages 12 and 13.

In 2005, she spent Independence Day dinner alone, someplace she never thought she'd be: Waikiki Beach in Hawaii.

She ate on a screened-in porch overlooking the water. And she watched the fireworks.

Jessica Vander Velde can be reached at or (813) 226-3433.

Brandon Fourth of July parade honors area pioneers 07/04/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, July 4, 2012 11:41pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Mueller casts broad net in requesting extensive records from Trump White House


    WASHINGTON — The special counsel investigating Russian election meddling has requested extensive records and email correspondence from the White House, covering the president's private discussions about firing his FBI director and his response to news that the then-national security adviser was under …

    In a photograph provided by the Russian foreign ministry, President Donald Trump meets with Sergei Lavrov, left, the Russian foreign minister, and Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, May 10, 2017. Special counsel Robert Mueller is interested in this meeting, where Trump said dismissing FBI Director James Comey had relieved "great pressure" on him, the New York Times reported on Sept. 20. [Russian Foreign Ministry via  New York Times]
  2. 'We will find our island destroyed': Hurricane Maria demolishes Puerto Rico


    SAN JUAN — Sleepless Puerto Ricans awoke Wednesday knowing to expect a thrashing from the most ferocious storm to strike the island in at least 85 years. They met nightfall confronting the ruin Hurricane Maria left behind: engorged rivers, blown-out windows, sheared roofs, toppled trees and an obliterated electric …

    Rescue vehicles from the Emergency Management Agency stand trapped under an awning during the impact of Hurricane Maria, after the storm  hit the eastern region of the island, in Humacao, Puerto Rico, Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017. The U.S. National Hurricane Center says Maria has lost its major hurricane status, after raking Puerto Rico. But forecasters say some strengthening is in the forecast and Maria could again become a major hurricane by Thursday. [Carlos Giusti | Associated Press]
  3. Obamacare repeal bill offers flexibility and uncertainty


    The latest Republican proposal to undo the Affordable Care Act would grant states much greater flexibility and all but guarantee much greater uncertainty for tens of millions of people.

  4. Manafort offered to give Russian billionaire 'private briefings' on 2016 campaign, report says


    Less than two weeks before Donald Trump accepted the Republican presidential nomination, his campaign chairman offered to provide briefings on the race to a Russian billionaire closely aligned with the Kremlin, the Washington Post reports.

    Paul Manafort, then Donald Trump's campaign chairman, talks to reporters on the floor of the Republican National Convention at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland. [Associated Press]
  5. Tampa girl, 4, dies of gunshot reaching for candy


    TAMPA — One day last week, 4-year-old Yanelly Zoller reached into her grandmother's purse looking for candy, her father says.

    Yanelly Zoller, also known as Nelly, snuggles with her grandfather’s dog, Venus. “She loved to help daddy work on the car,” her father, Shane Zoller, 22, said.