Not even stampeding elephants could rain on Linda Barnes’ parade.
When Barnes and a group of her neighbors held their first Burbank on Parade in 1982, they were entering unknown territory. The city’s Easter parade was a small affair on Third Street — a far cry from the pomp and circumstance of the parade in the early 1950s that celebrated the return of troops from World War II.
Nearly three decades had passed and Barnes and her friends found themselves watching the Easter parade and thought — no, knew — they could do better. With friend Sandy Dennis, who remembered the post-war parades of old, Barnes and others began finding sponsors, raising money and spending the entire year securing acts that would march down Olive for the 1982 return of Burbank on Parade.
“It was chaotic, and it was more fun than any parade we ever did,” Barnes recalled.
They rallied the support of Circus Vargas, which at the time set up a tent in town. Its presence became a big draw for that first year; defined by an ominous call over the walkie-talkie.
“The elephants are stampeding down Olive the wrong way,” Barnes heard.
They were eventually wrangled, and after a long day, Barnes and her friends got together at a restaurant for drinks and some well-deserved rest. Not long after, they planned the next year’s parade, and Barnes has been with it ever since.
This Saturday at 11 a.m., Burbank on Parade will take to Olive once again. It will be hard to top last year’s centennial parade, which featured director Ron Howard as the parade marshal, dozens of community groups, and a giant birthday cake leading the procession.
“Last year’s was probably the best parade we’ve ever had,” Barnes said. “We really went out last year to make that the very best parade we possibly could.”
This year’s parade is heavily influenced by its main sponsor, Bob Hope Airport. It will include a helicopter flyover and other vehicles from the airport, but perhaps the most unusual feature will be a visit from Bob Hope himself.
And you can have your picture taken with him if you want. He’ll hang out near the fighter jet in George Izay Park.
Mr. Hope, or rather his wax likeness, is appearing on loan from Madame Tussauds wax museum. He’s the result of six months of work from 20 sculptors, and cost about $300,000 to make.
Barnes assured me that my favorite feature from last year’s parade will return this year. One of the airport’s fire trucks is equipped with a giant water cannon, capable of spraying a stream 200 to 300 feet through the air. What can I say? I’m easily amused.
For those who aren’t, count on another appearance by the Road Kings car club, which celebrates its 60th anniversary this year, the equestrian groups from the Rancho neighborhood, and aviation-themed floats.
Barnes says each year’s parade gets a little tougher to organize as budgets tighten and more regulations are put in place. But nearly as soon as it’s over, organizers will gather as they did in 1982 to take a breath before planning the next party.
“A lot of people have enjoyed doing it and being in it, and the people of Burbank have turned out every year … so there’s a great reward in that,” Barnes said.