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. Pasco woman gives birth to child fathered by 11 year old, deputies say


    A Port Richey woman was arrested Tuesday, nearly three years after deputies say she gave birth to a child fathered by an 11-year-old boy.

    Marissa Mowry, 25, was arrested Tuesday on charges she sexually assaulted an 11-year-old and gave birth to his child. [Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office]
  2. For good of the Rays, Tim Beckham should embrace move to second

    The Heater

    PITTSBURGH — The acquisition of slick-fielding shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria said a lot of things, most notably that the Rays are serious about making in-season moves to bolster their chances to make the playoffs, with a reliever, or two, next on the shopping list.

    Adeiny Hechavarria is quick to make his presence felt.
  3. St. Petersburg showdown: Kriseman faces Baker for first time tonight at the Rev. Louis Murphy Sr.'s church

    Local Government

    A standing-room-only crowd packed a Midtown church banquet hall Tuesday to witness the first face-off between Mayor Rick Kriseman and former mayor Rick Baker in what is a watershed mayoral contest in the city's history.

    Former Mayor Rick Baker, left, is challenging incumbent Mayor Rick Kriseman, right, to become St. Petersburg mayor.
  4. At College World Series, the save goes to an LSU dad/doctor


    OMAHA, Neb. — The father of LSU pitcher Jared Poche' helped revive an 87-year-old man who was slumped on the TD Ameritrade Park concourse with no pulse during Game 1 of the College World Series finals.

    UF’s Tyler Dyson delivers against LSU in Tuesday’s late CWS Game 2. Go to
  5. Plant City police searching for drive-by shooter


    PLANT CITY — Crime Stoppers of Tampa Bay is offering a reward for information leading to an arrest in an early morning drive-by shooting outside a home.

    John J. Keeper, 49, was shot in the thigh in a drive-by shooting early Tuesday outside this home at 516 E Laura St. in Plant City. [Hillsborough County Property Appraiser]