The planning that goes into the Fairfax Independence Day Celebration Parade and Evening Show takes about nine months, and now committee members and city officials are hoping this year's floats, marching bands, announcers, music, food, family, fun and fireworks will go off without a hitch.
"It's a very big process," said Leslie Herman, special events coordinator with the city's parks and recreation department. "You should see my checklist."
The Independence Day Celebration Committee, formed in 1990, begins an evaluation of the previous parade in September. About 30 committee members brainstorm ways to make the next parade better, based on the successes of recent parades, said Herman. Members also begin securing the fireworks show around the time they accept nominations for the parade's grand marshal. Since this year will mark the 40th year of the celebration, Herman said it was pretty much a "no-brainer" when it came to selecting Warren R. Carmichael. He's been the reviewing stand announcer for the parade since its inaugural year, and has been a city resident since 1960.
"We kind of call him the voice of the parade," said Herman.
Marshall said he began announcing at the parade simply because he worked in a media outlet, and parades and other events would often enlist the help of recognizable people to participate in announcing and other duties. Year after year, they kept asking and he kept accepting, and he said it just sort of became his position at the parade. The only difference about being grand marshal this year, he said, is that he'll miss out on announcing the first few minutes of the parade, since his grand marshal duties require that he ride in one of the first units of the parade, so he will have to miss out on announcing the start of the parade. As soon as he is finished with the parade procession though, Carmichael said he will resume his 40-year duty as the stand announcer.
"I think it's a great tradition that been established in the city," said Carmichael. "I'm honored they asked me to be Grand Marshal."
Herman said the committee has focused on getting more marching bands to participate in recent years. She said it adds a lot of great music to the parade, giving it that patriotic sound associated with the Fourth of July. The theme contest takes place at elementary schools, nursing homes and the City of Fairfax Senior Center. The logo contest, which Herman said has become extremely popular within the city, accepts entries from local graphic artists, high school students and George Mason University graphic arts students.
"We've had up to 90 entries for the logo contest," said Herman.
This year's theme winner, Walt Morris, said his theme goes along with the spirit of the parade's 40-year past.
"We've had quite a history here in the city," said Morris.
When he came up with the theme, "Marching Down History's Lane," he said he was just having coffee one morning with a group at the City of Fairfax Senior Center. They were told about the theme contest and began brainstorming different ideas. People wrote down their themes, and turned them in. Morris said he didn't even remember entering an idea when he found out his was the winner.
"I forgot all about it," said Morris. "I was kind of surprised."
Once Morris' theme was adopted as this year's winner, it was presented to prospective applicants for the logo part of the contest. Artists were instructed to design a graphic to match the theme, and this year's winner is an undergraduate graphic design student at GMU. Diana Molleda designed a logo with 20 stars encircling the image of a curvy road getting smaller in the distance.
"I kind of literally thought of a lane," said Molleda. "I wanted it to look classic."
The city considers the parade the largest in Northern Virginia, said Herman, so it's a great place to bring the whole family to celebrate the holiday. This year, she said children can look forward to a huge float featuring the characters from Dr. Suess' "One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish." Between floats like that, dancing, music, food and fireworks, Herman and Carmichael said the parade is a great place for the entire family.
"It's a really good way to see the Fourth of July," said Carmichael.