Beneath sunny skies, South Lake Tahoe's first-ever community Fourth of July parade headed west down Highway 50 on Wednesday. A South Lake Tahoe fire engine led a train of antique cars, pickups and retired military vehicles through the town in a celebration to honor U.S. veterans, soldiers and their families.
Patty Smith, a long-time South Lake Tahoe resident whose son Sgt. Timothy Smith was killed in Baghdad four years ago, said she was honored to be part of the event.
"It's very positive. I have to participate. I will never let the memory of my son die as long as I live. I wish people would fly their flags year-round, and not just on the Fourth," said Smith.
Also in the parade were five of the nine surviving members of South Lake Tahoe's Veterans of the Foreign Wars Post 2627. The group includes Bill Hanson, WWII prisoner of war, and Hap Halliday, who moved to Santa Cruz a few years ago and made the four-hour trip up to Tahoe especially for the event.
"This is just great. It should have been done a long time ago," said Mike Kazarian, another member of Post 2627and WWII and Korea veteran.
Though some spectators staked out their spots early - Margaretha Gatzka from Carson City set up her chair at 8 a.m. - the mania didn't match that of the fireworks viewers, some of whom arrived at Lakeview Commons more than 15 hours before the evening show started. Parade crowds were light on Highway 50, but steady. Some of the watchers and participants said that they wished the parade, which covered the 2.5 miles between Stateline and Rufus Allen Boulevard in a little under 30 minutes, had moved a bit slower.
Councilman Bruce Grego said he hopes that the young event grows to become a South Lake Tahoe staple.
"It's exciting. I hope it creates a traditional for our community. We're looking for more special events, and people are trying to think what works. So this is an experiment, but hopefully it will become a tradition," said Grego.