Weather conditions may not have been ideal for Arlington's Neighborhood Day, but Wilson Boulevard in Clarendon was packed with people on Saturday, May 13, all of whom were there to celebrate their community. The rain held off for most of the parade, but a slight spattering midway was unable to dampen the spirits of those participating or watching.
Debbie Powers, Deputy Coordinator for Arlington's Office of Emergency Management, was on hand with walkie-talkie before the parade began. "There are 74 units in the parade this year," she said. Those groups included the Arlington County Board, local Girl and Boy Scout troops, the local VFW and Ladies' Auxiliary, both the Arlington Democrats and Republicans, the Arlington Gay and Lesbian Alliance and several Latino groups, many representing Bolivia.
Charlie Ovando and his mother Roumalda Romero both enjoyed the Bolivian representation, as Roumalda came to Arlington from Bolivia 14 years ago. "We liked it a lot," said Charlie. He suggested that in addition to the fire trucks that were in the parade, there should be a line of police cars as well.
The parade began with a strong showing of local law enforcement, including the Arlington County Police Motors and the Arlington County Police, Fire and Sheriff Honor Guard. Local fire departments closed out the parade, with units coming from Fort Myer and Cherrydale.
Local businesses participated as well, including several that were serving customers along the parade route. Employees of The Java Shack, which was awarded the Small Business of the Year Award by the Arlington Chamber of Commerce, rode in the back of a pick-up truck in the parade.
The Iota Cafe, a favorite venue for local music, provided brownies and Kool-Aid for those watching the parade. "It was fabulous," said Kevin Perone, who works at Iota. "It was definitely one of the better parades I've seen." The Iota Cafe has been providing refreshments for the parade since it began nine years ago.
Guillermo Amador, who used to live in Arlington, came to see the parade because his daughter was one of the dancers. "It was great," he said. His daughter was in the Raises Bolivia dance group. The Bolivian dancers were the highlight of the procession, spinning and stomping to thumping music while wearing beautiful costumes. The gentlemen in the dance groups had bells on the legs of their costumes, adding intense percussion to an already lively performance.
Local schools were also a large part of the festivities. Students from Swanson, Williamsburg, and Thomas Jefferson middle schools marched, as well as students from Yorktown and Wakefield High Schools. Sally Baird and Sharon Davis, both running for School Board, also had contentions in the parade.
The general consensus of the spectators was that the parade was "great" or "fantastic." Kathy and John Souser, who are from Fort Belvoir, just happened to be in Arlington for the day eating lunch when the parade marched by. "We enjoyed it," said Kathy. "It had a good community feel." We would expect nothing less of Arlington or its loyal citizens.