Point Dume Carries On Independence Day Tradition

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The annual parade also honors veterans who live in the Malibu community

One of the traditional Fourth of July symbols is the Norman Rockwell-esque Independence Day parade, complete with young children sporting red-white-and-blue costumes, riders on horseback and veterans marching ramrod straight. And if you think that era has passed, you only have to head to Point Dume on Friday morning, where the 15th Annual Fourth of July Parade kicks off at 10 a.m.

Launched by three Point Dume families in 1999, the homegrown neighborhood parade started with “a lot more people marching in the parade than actually watching it,” according to Dr. Steven Grahek, the “mayor” of Point Dume who helped organize the first parade, along with Point Dume neighbors, Ann (then Lambert) Vannoy, and Alice Carpenter and her daughter Rebecca. Their families used to stage readings of Shakespeare plays together.

 “One day, Alice found a Point Dume guy who came out to the street and just started reciting the Gettysburg Address on July 4,” Grahek said. “So we decided to do something special to commemorate the day.” 

To the initial puzzlement of many, Grahek had already expressed his patriotism by assembling a giant, red-white-and-blue flag made of Christmas lights and PVC pipe on his tennis court and mounting it in some trees on his property. An old-fashioned parade seemed to be the natural next step. 

Grahek hauled out his bulldozer to lead the parade, Carpenter made up some flyers and sought city permits (“I didn’t even know you needed permits,” Grahek said sheepishly) and the First Annual Fourth of July Point Dume Parade proceeded at a stately pace down Birdview Avenue, Cliffside Drive and Fernhill Drive. Carpenter rode a neighbor’s horse and a couple of vintage cars showed up to toot their horns down the parade route. Elderly magician Phil Foxwell performed magic tricks for a handful of locals in the parking lot at the end of the parade. 

“It cost us $500 that first year for a permit, insurance and to hire the Sheriff’s deputies as security,” Carpenter said. “And the cost really hasn’t gone up that much. Since the second year, the deputies do it for us gratis.” 

By the second year, the parade participants — and the cheering audience — had doubled, so Grahek thought it might be time to enhance the ceremonial offerings. He installed a barbecue grill and sound system on a flatbed truck. The parade concluded in the parking lot at the Point Dume Marine Science Elementary School, where folks grilled hot dogs and enjoyed a picnic. 

By the third year, the parade had expanded even more, and organizers thought it was time to offer competitive prizes for the most patriotic presentation. 

“We designed these big ribbons like the kind they give out at horseback riding competitions,” Grahek said. “Over the past 12 years, we’ve given out hundreds of them and people really fight for the blue ribbon. But everyone who participates gets an honorable mention.” 

Anyone can enter the parade and contestants are judged by age category and most fervent adherence to expression of Stars and Stripes. Apparently, the most heated competition lies with those who are over 64 years and under six years. Over the years, Grahek and Carpenter have seen any number of two-legged, four-legged and wheeled participants, including horses, dogs, pigs, goats, bicycles, tricycles, motorcycles, skateboards, strollers and vintage cars approaching their centenary. 

“Our judges look for the most patriotic, of course,” Grahek said. “But they also look for originality and uniqueness.” 

This year, judges include Malibu residents Wa i l a n i O’Herlihy, Dick Joy and Bill Swarthout. 

Carpenter is no stranger to parades. She comes from a military family (both parents served during World War II, in the Air Force and Navy), she played the clarinet and oboe in her junior high and high school marching bands, and she rode in her first parade on horseback in Homer, Alaska, many years ago.

Over the years, Grahek and Carpenter enlisted most Point Dume residents to help out in putting out flyers and recruiting participants. Carpenter said flatly that the parade wouldn’t happen without the “tons of volunteers” who help shepherd the event. 

This year, participants will line up at 9:30 at Birdview Avenue and Sweetwater Mesa Road, and the parade starts promptly at 10 a.m. As a reminder that the parade symbolizes the birth of America, Grahek has insured that four World War II veterans — all female — will lead the parade off, who will ride in a 1930s Pierce Arrow touring car. 

A few years ago, City Councilmember Laura Rosenthal approached Carpenter about making it a citywide parade, but Carpenter demurred. 

“This is a very home grown event,” Carpenter said. “My heart is really into the small town thing.”