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Oct. 30, 2020

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Hazel Dell Parade of Bands stays in tune

Organizers of annual event offer help to musicians in need

By , Columbian Arts & Features Reporter
10 Photos
The Skyview high school band marches in a recent Hazel Dell Parade of Bands. The parade usually draws thousands of participants and tens of thousands of spectators.
The Skyview high school band marches in a recent Hazel Dell Parade of Bands. The parade usually draws thousands of participants and tens of thousands of spectators. The Columbian files Photo Gallery

Every community needs an emergency department. The temporary community of marching musicians that forms up every third Saturday in May is no different. As the Hazel Dell Parade of Bands marches forth, at least some of its complicated and well-worn machinery is guaranteed to need last-minute repairs.

“We still do the free emergency repairs booth,” said Matt Gohlke of Music World, a primary sponsor and supplier for the parade. “We set up a tent at the fire station. You’ve got this many musical instruments, there are always a handful of emergency repairs needed.”

Music World’s emergency clinic is the visible conclusion to months of behind-the-scenes effort for Matt and Jody Gohlke, co-owners of the store and co-coordinators for the annual parade that allows school bands to spread joy through the streets of Hazel Dell.

Facilitating that joy, Gohlke said, is the mother of all band databases. “We’re friends with all the band directors, and I’ve got a database of all the local bands,” he said, including regular parade participants as well as some far-flung bands that take part every once in a while — like the one from Moses Lake, which has lots of eager musicians but not a lot of opportunities to go parading.

Gohlke registers all the participating bands, tracks their size, scope and appearance (How many musicians? How many drummers and dancers? What do the uniforms look like? What’s the song list, and what’s the volume really like?), and he works with other parade officials to start figuring out a band marching order. He even hosts an April band directors’ dinner at Billy Blues Bar and Grill to make introductions, finalize the lineup and sort out the rest of the details as a group.

If You Go

What: 55th annual Hazel Dell Parade of Bands.

When: 10:30 a.m. Saturday. Lions Club pancake breakfast, 7 to 10 a.m. at the fire station; tickets are $6.50, $5.50 for seniors and kids, free for ages 5 or younger.

Where: Starts from Clark County Fire District 6, 8800 N.E. Hazel Dell Ave., Vancouver.

Info and parade route:


What: Race to Remember.

When: 10:15 a.m. Saturday.

Distance: 2.3 miles along parade route, starting at Fire District 6.

Registration: $25 on site, starting at 8 a.m.


All those details get delivered to CVTV’s on-air parade hosts, who emcee the parade for viewers — introducing each band, float and group, one by one. That seems simple enough, but all it takes is one group showing up late and needing a different place in the lineup to throw everything off, Gohlke said.

“There’s been a little bit of flying by the seat of our pants,” he said, and rushing updates to the emcees to avoid misidentifications.

Paying for the parade is always a big endeavor, added Tony Ruestig of TwinStar Credit Union, and this year wasn’t helped by the loss of major sponsor Sunlight Supply, which was sold last year. But new sponsors are always arriving, he said, and there was never any risk of no parade at all.

“We’ve made that up,” Ruestig said. “The parade will go forward and it’s going to be a beautiful day in Hazel Dell, because that’s the way it always is.”

Non-marching orders

If you’re planning to attend the parade but stick to the sidelines, here are some parade basics and your non-marching orders.

The parade will include nearly 30 local marching bands; over 100 entries and floats; dancers, clowns, animals, antique and custom cars and fire trucks. Five thousand participants and as many as 20,000 spectators are expected.

But first, as always, comes the annual pancake breakfast, served up from 7 to 10 a.m. by the Hazel Dell Lions Club at the Fire District 6 station, 8800 N.E. Hazel Dell Ave. The breakfast costs $6.50 for adults and $5.50 for seniors and children. Kids under 5 eat free.

Also, a 2.3-mile “Race to Remember” run — observing Armed Forces Day, always the third Saturday in May — is set to lead out the parade, starting at 10:15 a.m., from just south of Target at 8605 N.E. Hazel Dell Ave. It follows the parade route; you can register in person on parade day starting at 8 a.m. for $25. Rewards for runners include an after-party at nearby Three Monkeys Pub and Grill.

The Hazel Dell Parade of Bands launches at 10:30 a.m. from Hazel Dell Avenue at the fire station, travels south along Hazel Dell Avenue, crosses at Northeast 63rd to Highway 99 and heads north again before ending at 78th Street.

Hazel Dell Avenue south of 99th Street closes at 8 a.m., and the rest of the parade route — and freeway offramps — closes beginning at 9 a.m., but you can still get to the big parking lots at Target, Grocery Outlet and Safeway.