By Ingomar Schoenborn, Quilt staff
It wouldn’t be the last Monday of May in the west San Fernando Valley without the parade honoring those who’ve died while serving in the U.S. armed forces — but due to this year’s feisty coronavirus, staging the popular procession in a mindful way has given local officials a unique set of problems.
“The Memorial Day Parade is Canoga Park’s biggest annual event and draws enormous crowds,” says Murla Havemeyer, Canoga Park Friendly Neighborhood Council’s Chairperson of Parade Organizement. “Ordinarily that's great, but not with this COVID-19 thing trending. So rather than cancel the parade, we decided to figure a way to accommodate spectators and participants alike in a safe, responsible way — while being mindful.”
|The Canoga Park Memorial Day Parade in happier, less pandemic-y times. Staff photo.|
|Murla Havemeyer, CPFNC's|
Head of Parade Organizement
The solution? Space the crowds out. The parade has traditionally run along Sherman Way from Owensmouth Avenue to Mason Avenue for a total of 1.25 miles with crowds four and five people deep lining both sides of the street for its entire length. This year, however, to properly socially distance the estimated 30,000 spectators who are likely to attend, the parade route will extend eastward for an approximately fifteen additional miles to the Bob Hope Airport in Burbank.
“We’ve had crews out this week marking off six-foot intervals and taping down approved viewing spaces on the sidewalks from here into Winnetka, Reseda, Lake Balboa, Van Nuys, Valley Glen, North Hollywood, all the way into Burbank. We’re mindful of the fact that Memorial Day is less than two weeks away but anticipate they should be done in time for the parade on Monday, May 25.”
Those hoping to show their patriotism by attending need only find an unoccupied Individual Parade Enviewment Location and stand directly on it while the parade files by.
There have been changes for those participating in the parade as well, says Havemeyer.
“Since we’ll be crawling along at a little over two miles an hour across the entire length of the valley, [parade vehicle] drivers need to be mindful and prepare for a seven hour trip. That means a full tank of gas and an empty Big Gulp cup in the seat next to you in case you need it.”
A brief pitstop is scheduled at the Hazeltine ARCO in Van Nuys, notes Havemeyer, to accommodate antique cars with smaller tanks or particularly inefficient gas mileage, and those who “can’t hold it any longer.”
|This clean, friendly ARCO station in Van Nuys marks the halfway point in this year's parade — and a welcome|
"pit-stop" for those needing to gas up a parade vehicle, urinate — or even defecate. Photo credit: Google Maps.
Parade participants marching on foot are advised to wear comfortable shoes and be prepared to traverse the entire route. “We really want to be mindful about putting on a good show for the crowds from here to Burbank so we’ve given the Pierce College Winnetka ROTC Drill Team the go-ahead to use their bayonets to prod along anyone who starts to lag behind.”
Dancing horses, always a popular element of the festivities, will be included this year as well. Vaqueros have been asked to include only their most healthy animals that have the stamina to gaily prance and frolic for the entirety of the 16+ mile distance. “We don’t want a ‘Santa Anita racetrack situation’ taking place in the middle of Sherman Way,” says Havemeyer. “We’re trying to be especially mindful of any kids watching.”
|Horses, like this one from the 2015 parade, will be part of this year's event, but|
only if horse and passenger are both mindful of going the distance. Staff photo.
|Jason Valsera, teen tubadour.|
Music is a big part of any good parade and the organizement committee has been mindful to make sure to include plenty of marching bands this year as always — with specific modifications.
Stoney Point High School senior Jason Valsera says he’s mindful of the challenges this year’s parade brings. “We’re doing our best. But now that we have to march single file and the band will be stretched out over 250 yards, we need to play a lot louder so we’re all on the same measure.
“And with the muffling from that N-95 tuba mask I’m required to put on my instrument, that’s not going to be easy.”
Correction: Seems the parade has been canceled this year. We regret the error.