Jim Jewell: The Valley of the Moon and my favorite parades

Fittingly, I am writing this on Independence Day in an idyllic setting aptly named the Valley of the Moon, getting away from life as I have recently known it.
Jul 8, 2014
Jim Jewell

SONOMA, Calif. 

Fittingly, I am writing this on Independence Day in an idyllic setting aptly named the Valley of the Moon, getting away from life as I have recently known it.

After a grueling, sometimes emotionally difficult, and (as I remarked to my brother and sister) a wonderfully strange 10 days in Lebanon, I returned to San Diego for a hectic day. Then, Maureen and I escaped to Sonoma. We stayed with our friends, Alan and Marin Hicks in their new home, which backs up to a Sebastiani vineyard. It was, for me, a much needed escape.

As we readied for walking to the parade, I recalled my favorite parades, several of which have been mentioned here before.

On April 25, 1955, Lebanon celebrated the 10th anniversary of the United Nations with a parade down Main Street ending at Caruthers Hall where several Cub Scouts, including me, helped plant a commemorative tree there. Caruthers Hall, the tree, and I are gone.

About a dozen years ago, Maureen and I were on Orcas Island on the Fourth visiting another old Vanderbilt friend, Cy Fraser and his wife Julie. Several hundred people were on the four block main street of East Sound. About half of them were in the parade. A small band led clowns, artists and craftsmen with their wares, and children of all ages, many with dogs and American flags. There wasn’t a politician in sight during the 20 minute affair. The celebration of our independence was palpable.

In 2005, Maureen and I attended Dublin, Ireland’s St. Patrick’s Day with a Kimball Furniture tour group. The parade did not resemble Saint Paddy parades in the U.S. It was a massive version of the Sonoma and East South parades above. Locals, although there were several high school bands from America, dominated the two-hour march. It was evident the participants were not professionals. It was wonderful fun, and the sense of Irish pride could be felt.

Of course, Castle Heights’ Sunday parades must be included. I would don my uniform after church, assemble on the circle, and march down to Stroud Gwynn Field with the band playing march songs. The drill team would put on its show, and we “passed in review” and back up the hill. Usually, I considered it an intrusion into my free time. Yet I remember feeling a little bit proud of myself as well.

My favorite remains Lebanon’s 2009 Veteran’s Day parade. JB Leftwich pushed Jimmy Jewell’s nomination of grand marshal. Jim Henderson was supportive in carrying the nomination to reality (Jim, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel, should be recognized for his support veterans and veteran causes in Lebanon).

The event was well covered in this newspaper but the best part came at the beginning. My father halted the parade in front of Henderson’s Flower Shop. He alighted from Jay Brice’s 1921 Ford Hack and walked to the sidewalk where his wife was stationed in her temporary wheelchair warmed by blankets the Henderson folks brought to her. He grabbed Estelle’s hand and kissed her on the cheek before returning to the hack. The parade resumed. No parade can top that for me.

I have added Sonoma’s Independence Day event to my list.

Sonoma is a town of 10,000 where California wine was initially introduced. Sonoma began in 1823 when Father Junipero Serra established his northernmost and last of nine missions. In 1835, General Vallejo built the eight-acre plaza, and Sonoma became a Mexican pueblo. 

The parade, ranked eighth in the country by “Travel and Leisure” magazine,” circumnavigated the plaza Vallejo built. It was not a glitzy professional performance. The denizens noted this year’s was better than in years past. 

The town band began the parade, added some Independence Day regalia to their costumes, and then brought up the end. Local organizations and de rigueur politicians were interspersed among youth groups, dance teams, and classic old cars. Children roamed freely on the edges of the march. 

The highlight were Mexican vaqueros and vaqueritas with magnificent horses and splendid outfits from a past long gone. Several of the vaqueros twirled their riatas in great loops and jumped through them. Two vaqueros performed these feats standing on the saddles of their mounts.

Experiencing the mixture of cultures celebrating our country being independent for all of us gave me the sense that sometimes, all is right with the world.ack, and I plan for it to be pretty soon.

Jim Jewell, a retired Navy commander lives in San Diego but was raised in Lebanon. His book, A Pocket of Resistance: Selected Poems, is now available through Author House, Amazon and Barnes and Noble online. Jim’s email is jim@jimjewwell.com.

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