Alumni sought as Parade of Bands turns 50

By Sue Vorenberg, Columbian features reporter



If you go

What: Hazel Dell Parade of Bands’ 50th anniversary parade, with more than 50 local and regional marching bands. Organizers are looking for alumni to join the Golden Jubilee alumni band.

Where: The parade begins at the District 6 fire station, 8800 Hazel Dell Ave., and ends at 78th Street and Highway 99.

When: 10:30 a.m. May 17.

In 1964, only nine bands signed up to play to a crowd of about 8,000 at the first Hazel Dell Parade of Bands.

Things have grown a bit since then.

As the Golden Jubilee 50th anniversary of the parade approaches, organizers are expecting more than 50 local and regional marching bands, with at least 25,000 spectators.

And with just a few months left to prepare, they're are looking for some special alumni support, said Sarah Mitchelson, public education coordinator at Clark County Fire District 6, one of the event hosts.

"It's a big homecoming," Mitchelson said. "People are coming from out of state for this. It's going to be a big one."

Organizers are looking for past participants to join a 50th Anniversary Alumni Band and march in the May 17 event. Anyone who has participated in past events as a band member, banner carrier, cheerleader or flag holder can join the group, Mitchelson said.

"We already have 60 people signed up for the band, and we'd love to have more," she said. "I don't think we'd turn anybody away."

Some of those signed up are a little rusty, which is why organizers want to get the group together for some practices before the event, said Fire Commissioner Casey Collins.

"So far, we have former band members who have become professional musicians and other members who haven't played in 20 years," he said. "The Alumni Band is all about fun and community spirit."

The six high schools that participated in the original event (there were also three junior high schools) have also signed up to be in the 50th anniversary event. They are: Columbia River, Fort Vancouver, Hudson's Bay, Evergreen, Battle Ground and Camas high schools, Mitchelson said.

"It was originally put together in 1964 by the '99 Strip' men's business association," she said. "They had kids who practiced in marching bands — they practiced and practiced — but they didn't have a parade to march in. And at the time, the Rose Festival wasn't taking groups from out of state. So the dads decided to put on their own parade here."

The original parade included Little League teams, horses and commercial vehicles, which the 50th anniversary event will also have.

The 1964 event also advertised a "real Indian princess" and "21 costumed Indians" with war drums, in language that would be considered somewhat disrespectful today, she added.

"We do not do 'costumed Indians,'" Mitchelson said, noting the racial overtones of the old description.

After the May 23, 1964, event, The Columbian said it was "an overwhelming success."

"More than the scheduled number of Indians showed up for the parade, but two fewer bands (two of the junior high schools) took part than were originally planned," the May 25, 1964, story said.

About 1,500 people marched in the event that year, according to the story.

Organizers are also looking to round up a group of Grand Marshals from past parades.

"Some have passed away, but we're trying to get as many as possible," Mitchelson said.

The first parade was led by Len Gray, a horseman and animal trainer.

Mitchelson said she hopes a lot more alumni will join in and sign up.

"It's a special year," she said. "And word is already getting out."

Parade entry registration forms will be released March 3 on the Hazel Dell/Salmon Creek Business Association website at The site also has more information about the parade.