Patriots on parade

The 2006 Patriots Day Parade started with a hitch, but ended without a glitch.

Laguna's Veterans of Foreign Wars and American Legionaires stepped in for the U.S. Marine Mounted Color Guard when the horses pulled up lame on Friday and had to be scratched from the parade, but once under way, nothing marred the day.

This year's theme, "America ? Still United" was mot juste, at least on Parade Day.

Fears about disruptions ended when the last entry passed the reviewing stand in front of City Hall without disruption, which supporters of the Minuteman Project threatened when the group which was denied entry in the parade.

"That cost us a lot of money," said attorney Gene Gratz, parade committee co-counsel with Donna Bader in the suit filed and lost by the Minuteman Project, seeking to be allowed in the parade against the committee's wishes.

Gratz and Bader had offered to waive their attorney fees, estimated to be about $40,000, if the project founder Jim Gilchrist made a successful, good-faith effort to deter his followers from disrupting the parade.

"I want to say a special thanks to Donna and Gene for helping us," parade committee President Nina Rietsch said. "Otherwise, we would not have had a parade this year."

Minuteman supporters questioned the patriotism of parade officials and participants, including parade Chair Charles Quilter III. Quilter is a retired U.S. Marine colonel, who served his country in four wars. The parade's grand marshal, Gordon Dillow, served in Vietnam and volunteered to be embedded in Operation Iraqi Freedom, assigned to report on the action of 1/5 ? that's corps speak for the First Battalion, 5th Marines.

While with the 1/5, Dillow met Marine Corporal Kevin Staight, a Laguna Beach High School graduate. Staight is home after two tours in Iraq and Dillow invited him to ride in the Grand Marshal's car in the parade.

Walter F. Rening was the honored Patriot of the Year, recognized for his service in the military, not to mention his 27 years with the Laguna Beach Fire Department.

Citizen of the Year Cossie Mechling, who died Dec. 31, was represented by family members and best friend Marthann Newton in the parade.

"My mother gave her heart to Laguna," Mechling's daughter Wendy Gildea said. "Her affection was not misplaced."

Hilary Greene and Robert Knapp were selected by the high school as the Junior Citizens of the Year.

Almost 100 entries marched or rode in the parade, sent on their way by Howard Levin, who has served as the starter for 17 years.

It may take a village to raise a child, but takes about a half a village to put on the parade ? what with participants and almost 40 dedicated volunteers.

Bill Morris was at the staging area at the Laguna Beach Unified School District by 6 a.m. to number the parking spaces for the entries.

Other early bird volunteers included registrars Joan Trivitt and Barbara Pemberton, and of course, Sandi Werthe.

Sonny Budd and George Woods announced the parade. Joe Jahraus set up the reviewing stand, where Sandi St. John reigned during the parade.

Also among the volunteers: Richard Moore, Jean and Jim Law, Pat Quilter, Gavin Kettle, Don Black, Richard Izaguirre, Carolyn Miller, Diz D'Isabella, Jay Andrus, Jerry Ford, Jon Tschirgi, Marv Johnson and Boys Scout Troop 35, who posted the no-parking signs and the Police Explorers, who assisted with traffic control. Mike Morrison judged vehicle entries. John Campbell arranged for insurance.

Karen Ward was the school liaison for the essay and program cover art contests, won this year by E. J. Kramer and Maurice Phillips respectively.

Anne Wood waved the entries out of the staging area ? assisted by Laguna Beach High School senior Claire Rietsch, younger sister of the parade president daughter of 1992 parade Grand Marshal U.S Marine Corps Col. Manfred A. Rietsch.

"Claire doesn't even need community service hours." Wood said. "She has already completed her requirement."

Community service is a requirement for graduation from the high school.

Laguna Beach High School Impact Club members Chelsea Hairston, Kristen Drury and James Borgesi (his grandfather dropped the h), set up a pre-parade snack stand to raise money for the Mexican orphanage the club will visit in a couple of weeks. Friends of Skipper Carrillo also sold "Home Run Day" goodies to raise funds for the scholarship in his name.

United Studios of Self Defense was about the first entry to arrive, which made a long wait for instructor Jeff Kash and students Silia Hatzi and Matt Rooklidge, slotted 82 in the parade.

Waste Management's entry included a Honda tricked out with Lamborghini doors, seven TVs and speaker system, owned by Rafaela Arias.

"Gallimaufry is participating with us," said Waste Management's Laguna representative, the irrepressible Michelle Clark.

Dean Armentrout identified the Parents, Family and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) slick entry as a 1940s 60-series Cadillac. The high school's entry was a 1952 Chevrolet Pickup truck owned by Jerry Pitzel, class of 1947. Walker Reed marched with Alumni and the Tidewater Docents entry. The Garden Club's VW "Lady Bug" was too cute.

A voiceless Bree Burgess Rosen ? and there's an oxymoron ? handed out little "green cards," as did other participants in the "Lagunatics" entry, including Chris Quilter and Marion Jacobs.

Rose Ingram, Skip Leavitt, Birgitte Schoen and Bev Holt were among the Chamber of Commerce representatives who rode in one of the two Festival Trolleys in the parade. Mayor Elizabeth Pearson-Schneider, Mayor Pro Tem Steven Dicterow, City Councilwoman Cheryl Kinsman and City Clerk Martha Anderson rode in the other trolley.

Nancy and Gary Beverage and Suzi and Arno Chavelle judged the parade. Trophy winners are listed on A8.

Mozambique, which stepped up the plate ? so to speak ? when the parade's traditional luncheon site was already booked this year, put on the scrumptious, post-parade luncheon for volunteers and honored guests.

"We faced some tough challenges this year," parade chair Quilter said.

And came through it all, "Still United."

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