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Laguna Beach Patriots Parade motors back to life with theme of unity in tough times

The South Orange County Vietnam Veterans march Saturday in the 55th annual Patriots Parade in Laguna Beach.
(Spencer Grant)
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Banners and outstretched arms waved Saturday morning as a motorcade and marchers proceeded down Laguna Beach’s Forest Avenue for the 55th annual Patriots Parade, a celebration that returned to vivid life after a pandemic interruption last year.

This year’s parade theme, “Toward Community and Unity,” was selected to foster a spirit of coming together in a time of adversity, parade President Edward Hanke stated in a program for the event.

“Over the past two years, our nation and community have undergone the extraordinary trauma of a deadly pandemic along with polarization of our people,” he said. “The founders of our country intended that we be the United States of America. And united, indeed, we have defended our nation from many threats over the 246 years of our history.”

Former Marine Bill Sandlin was the Honored Patriot of the year at the Patriots Parade in Laguna Beach.
Former Marine Bill Sandlin was the Honored Patriot of the year at the 55th annual Patriots Parade in Laguna Beach.
(Spencer Grant)

Organizer Sandi Werthe said while the morning’s weather was cold and sunny, spirits were high among the more than 75 parade entrants and hundreds of locals who lined city streets as the procession moved westward on Parke Avenue, from Laguna Beach High School to Glenneyre Street, and then through the downtown area.

“We didn’t have a parade last year, because of the virus,” Werthe said Monday. “That’s why we were determined to have one this year come hell or high water, as they say.”

Near the head of the parade, Grand Marshal Andrew Barnicle — former director of the Laguna Playhouse, belatedly celebrating its 100th anniversary this year — had a bird’s-eye view of the festivities from his seat atop a shiny red classic Pontiac GTO.

Parade Grand Marshal Andrew Barnicle in a classic Pontiac GTO.
(Spencer Grant)

Other honorees included Patriot of the Year U.S. Marine Veteran Bill Sandlin, Citizen of the Year Laguna Beach Live founder Cindy Prewitt and Laguna Beach High School seniors Morgan Zevnik and William Coffey, selected as Junior Citizens of the Year.

Several entries were awarded trophies, including the Band Sweepstakes Trophy, which went to Oak Avenue Intermediate Band of Temple City, the Grand Marshal’s Trophy, given to Laguna Beach County Water District, and Pageant of the Masters, which was honored with the President’s Trophy.

Taking a breather Monday from Saturday’s spectacle, the result of nearly six months of planning, Werthe expressed her gratitude to the entrants, organizers and community members who made the return of the Patriots Parade possible.

“Thank you to everyone for helping us march again,” she said.

Scout Bodhi Thien checks out a cannon managed by Blair Liggatt, Chuck Almand and Glen Rutter of the Pageant of the Masters.
Boy Scout Bodhi Thien checks out a faux cannon managed by Blair Liggatt, Chuck Almand and Glen Rutter.
(Spencer Grant)

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