If an alien – I don’t mean the acid-drooling, cockroachey, slobbering kind, but instead, the soft, furry kind that would hold a borderline obsessive interest in our housecats – if this alien were to drop from the sky on April 6 and land in the middle of Olive Avenue, how would we describe a parade to it?
It’s a people zoo in reverse — rather than traveling to the exhibits, the exhibits come to you in a preordained order on a pre-plotted path. You stand there for a couple of hours and watch the same emergency vehicles you always see; only now they’re traveling at one-twentieth their usual speed, with candy flying from the windows.
That’s at face value. There’s something more to it, right? There’s something that compels us to return to it, to watch each year as Burbank on Parade puts the best of what the city offers on mobile display.
Carey Briggs and his team think they’ve cracked it.
“There aren’t many opportunities a citizen can get out and meet a celebrity, a city council rep, a state senator,” Briggs said. “It’s about identifying with your school principal — it’s a tangible thing, meeting your community.”
In 2012, Briggs and a core group of volunteers set out to save Burbank on Parade from near cancellation. Last year, the Burbank Police Department had withdrawn its donations of street barricades for closures along the Olive Avenue route, and this year the department withdrew its officers altogether.
Briggs and the parade board, about 10 core volunteers in all, began hitting the road for donations beginning in August. They canvassed the chamber of commerce, Burbank businesses and anyone else who could spare some donations to fund the 2013 event.
They were driven, Briggs said, by a duty to preserve a unique community-building event. It’s a throwback to bygone days where such parades were held in communities all over Southern California, first saluting soldiers as they returned from World War II, then recognizing the many layers of society that made these towns what they are.
Burbank’s parade drew hundreds of thousands of visitors in the 1950s with a multi-day gala bash. This year, it’s a single parade at 11 a.m. led by grand marshal Tim Conway Jr. Though it’s distinctively Burbank, the parade will draw hundreds from surrounding areas because, as Briggs puts it, it’s a tradition and it’s lost in many communities.
This year, organizers plan to home in on Burbank-specific businesses and groups. They estimate about 300 businesses are related to the studios, a fitting spin for the parade’s “Let’s Go to the Movies” theme.
“It’s transforming,” Briggs said. “We’re really trying to make it a great showcase of Burbank.”
About 150 volunteers are expected to make Burbank on Parade a reality, and you can join them by calling (818) 562-7801 or by visiting burbankonparade.com.
Should the aliens land that day and they’re not scared off by the Transformers vehicles, they might see a city involved in creating real interactions in a time when its inhabitants can so easily forego those connections. That may not necessarily make us better people, but it’s what makes us human.