The 62nd annual Pinedorado celebration over Labor Day weekend offered a series of festivities steeped in patriotism, history and public service, laced with liberal doses of whimsy and fun.
Saturday’s parade began on an emotional high note with the 1st Marine Division Band followed by 40 World War II veterans of “The Greatest Generation” serving as co-parade marshals riding in three military-transport trucks. This year’s parade theme was “Hometown Heroes, Pinedorado Salutes Those Who Protect Us.” The Marine band’s crisp uniforms, music and marching earned the parade’s highest honor, the sweepstakes award, and the co-marshals won the parade theme honor. One veteran added to the roster at the last minute was 95-year-old former Cambria librarian and Navy Wave 3rd Class Yeoman Elizabeth Pollard, who served from 1943 to 1945 at Livermore Naval Air Station.
The 70-entry parade lasted one hour and 20 minutes.While it started unoder foggy, overcast skies, by the time it ended after 11 a.m. in West Village, the sun was fully shining.
For the first time ever, the parade was broadcast live on KTEA 103.5-FM with station owner Jim Kampschroer providing the commentary.
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After the parade, a crowd estimated at more than 500 people converged on the parking lot of the Veterans Memorial Building for an hour-long concert by the Marine band.
The experience brought most in the enthusiastic crowd to their feet several times and many to tears. Likewise, band members “were blown away by the reception they got in Cambria,” according to Ron Waltman, among those who worked to get the noted musical group in the parade.
Staff Sgt. Michael Flaningam told The Cambrian that band members range in age from 19 to 44, and 13 are currently serving in Afghanistan. “They’re Marines first and musicians second,” he said.
Gesturing toward the audience that nearly filled the parking lot and spilled out onto grassy areas beyond, Flaningam said, “We don’t normally get this kind of reception. In a big city, we go to an event, we play, they say thank you and we go home. It’s kind of like a job.
“But with the welcome we’ve had here, we are receiving recognition for what Marines are doing all over the world. It’s humbling to realize that, for these people — including the World War II veterans — we get to be the face of the modern Marine Corps.”
As band members gathered post-concert for a farewell at the American Legion hall, a surprise performance of the Marine hymn by bagpiper Don Taylor of Bakersfield reportedly had the 33 Marines at full attention throughout, some of them in tears.
Waltman said Taylor served with the 1st Marine Division Force Recon unit in World War II.
Among other entries in the 70-unit parade were:
• An island bump-and-grind from Rotarians mimicking “South Pacific”;
• Scarecrows plugging Cambria’s Harvest Festival, and dancers promoting Oktoberfest, both in October;
• Other bands and musical groups, including the Krazy Kelptics playing music on dried seaweed (wining the judge’s special recognition award);
• Entries from local schools and the Grizzy Youth Academy (best youth entry award).
According to statistics and Tuesday-morning-quarterback opinions, the Lions Club and American Legion Post No. 432 threw a great party.
The North Coast was busy overall, according to chamber of commerce and Hearst Castle officials.
Linda Payne, Castle ticket-office supervisor, said tours sold out on a “good weekend, very strong. Attendance is up 3.9 percent for the fiscal year.”
Mary Ann Carson, executive director of the Cambria chamber, said, “Labor Day delivered good business, a lot of people and such good energy. People relaxed and bought themselves a little of this and a little of that. Motels were full. And some people said we had more European visitors than usual.”
Jim Bevan, Lions Club president, said, “We had huge crowds at the Pinedorado grounds Saturday after the parade and after the concert, and on Sunday for the car show,” plus above-average crowds Monday for the public-service fair.
It was so busy at the strawberry waffle breakfast at the Joslyn Recreation Center on Saturday morning they ran out of strawberries, the first time that’s happened in at least a decade, according to one worker.
Sales at the Pinedorado Grounds were up slightly each day “in spite of the bad economy,” Bevan said, with food booths doing especially brisk business. “We offered people a bargain in weekend entertainment, and they took us up on it.”
Cambrian editor Bert Etling contributed to this story.