The Architects of the French Place 4th of July Parade

Written by Katie Halloran

Jeanne Arbuckle and Ray Jordan. Photo by Katie Halloran.If you merge onto a highway and come upon an otherwise nondescript truck or car with a large American flag sticker on its rear windshield, what do you think of the occupants? You can’t see them, their hairdo, their suit, or their hunting gear. You can’t hear their accents or the radio station they have tuned. Do you feel they are your brethren, your patriotic cousins, and hope they pull up along side you at the next rest stop? Or, do you put on your blinker and accelerate around them, but not without a sidelong glance to see who in fact is in the driver’s seat?

These American-flag-oriented-concepts were on my mind all day before interviewing the founding mother and father of the Cherrywood neighborhood’s annual 4th of July parade, Jeanne Arbuckle and Ray Jordan. I wanted to ask these longtime neighbors what they thought about patriotism.

Jeanne and Ray started the parade in 1996, when their son Nathan was four and daughter Katie was eight. The parade’s genesis story goes like this: nearby Delwood had a 4th of July parade all the kids, including Nathan’s best friend Luna Mitchell,  were raving about. Dad Ray decided his kids should have a parade in their own neighborhood and so the family of four invited their dear friend and neighbor Kelly Severin and her son Jake Severin to join them in the first annual French Place 4th of July parade.

That first year was composed of a procession of six: Jeanne hoisting the flag on its pole, Ray keeping step with drum sticks on an upturned igloo cooler (see the photo), Katie singing in her red tutu, and Nathan bonging a cow bell. Loyal friends Kelly and Jake swelled the ranks.

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1996 4th of July Parade.
Photo credit:Dick Eppler, Jeanne Arbuckle and Ray Jordan.

Ray explains that it has always been a family thing and an event that is loved especially by the neighborhood’s underage contingent. Years of photos show spaceship decorated wagons, red, white, and blue-ribboned bikes, fairy wings, star and stripe painted faces, and neighbors of all age wolfing down watermelon slices. Participation has steadily increased, and the parade itself has expanded in length. It began as a one block blow out, and recently a crowd of 100+ has gathered at  at 28th Street and French Place on the morning of the 4th, and then traveled beyond the winding curves of Kern Ramble to arrive at the cookies, lemonade and watermelon bonanza in Cherrywood Green.

Some years the parade includes patriotic music projected by a wagon-towed boom box. Other years traditional Mexican “papel picado” banners span the street from the branches of live oaks. Most years paraders are cheered on by margarita-toting lawn partiers along the way.

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2011 4th of July Parade. Photo credit: Arbuckle-Jordan.
S
ee more photos of past 4th of July parades on Flickr.

But according to Jeanne and Ray, every year’s event is designed to allow all Cherrywood residents’ patriotism shine. Regardless of who walks beside you, or which foreign policy or local tax you support or oppose, the neighborhood event offers everyone the pleasure to wear a red, white and blue grin and walk wild and free down their streets. Sounds like real patriotism to me.

Care to join? Ray and Jeanne send a special thank you to their “silent helper” of many years, Dick Eppler. They thank their long time fan and neighborhood matriarch, 90 year old Edith Ussery, their son and daughter who have attended nearly every year, and their founding partner and dear friend Kelly Severin who’s memory will always make the parade a little sweeter. And, they are beginning to scout for a family to take on the tradition of organizing the parade. If you think you might be interested, please contact the Arbuckle-Jordan residence at .

NOTE: The 2014 4th of July parade will start at 10 a.m. at 28th Street and French Place

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