BRANDON — In times of yore, Fourth of July parades meant Uncle Sam walking around on stilts, Statue of Liberty floats and military members in uniform.
In modern-day election years, it represents a foreshadowing of voting ballots.
The Community Roundtable announced the lineup for its annual Independence Day parade, and of more than 80 entries, two dozen are elected officials, candidates for office or political organizations. Marie Cain, parade chairwoman, said she had to turn away nearly 20 interested entrants for space and deadline reasons, and most of them were running for office.
State senators, representatives and candidates for County Commission, School Board and judgeships all paid $75 for the right to ride, walk and march their way around a 1.5-mile route that begins at 10 a.m. and runs north on Parsons Avenue from the Lumsden Road intersection and then west on Robertson Street. Billed by organizers as Florida's largest Fourth of July parade, it annually attracts 30,000 spectators.
"This is something you have to do," said Dipa Shah, one of three candidates in the parade who is running for the at-large School Board seat in District 6 that April Griffin is vacating.
Of course the parade has tried to incorporate an annual theme for most of the 60-plus years. Officials will celebrate the 100th anniversary of Brandon High School this year, and have named 1932 graduate Hazel Henderson as the grand marshal.
More than 30 floats are expected, including the largest entrant, the Rough Riders' RV. Community Roundtable vice president Janine Nickerson said with the organization turning away would-be participants each year, it has considered expanding the parade route.
Ultimately, however, tradition wins out. Nearby residents and participants are used to the route and many arrive before dawn to claim their favorite viewing spot. Nickerson dubbed the 2010 parade, which was moved to the evening and took place on the Brandon Parkway, a "disaster."
For folks looking for evening activities on the holiday, Westfield Brandon mall will present the 11th annual Brandon Blast Celebration from 6 to 9 p.m. Highlights include a magic show, face painting and music in the courtyard from Lakewood Ranch High School rising artist Drake Austin and country performers Kim Betts and Gamble Creek Band. The event concludes with fireworks.
Eric Vician can be reached at [email protected]