Cayucos Fourth of July parade sparks friendly rivalry among entries

Doug Kolb, left, and Patrick Haugen work on The Sea Shanty's float being built behind the Cayucos restaurant in anticipation of the Fourth of July parade.
Doug Kolb, left, and Patrick Haugen work on The Sea Shanty's float being built behind the Cayucos restaurant in anticipation of the Fourth of July parade. jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

After weeks of preparation, space aliens, rodeo clowns, Jedis and a cow will be perched on their floats Saturday morning, as 67 entries get ready to roll down Ocean Avenue in Cayucos’ annual Fourth of July Parade.

For at least three families, competing for the coveted sweepstakes prize as best overall entry is a longstanding tradition. Bill Shea and Carol Kramer, owners of the Sea Shanty restaurant in Cayucos, have been entering floats in the parade with their group, “Sea Shanty,” for 32 years. Shea describes the event as a family affair, with kids, grandkids, friends and employees all jumping on board to create the float.

A family affair with a touch of friendly rivalry among float builders, that is. The Sea Shanty floats have won about 10 sweepstake awards over the years.

Last year, however, the title was taken by “Nana’s Bunch” for their Cayucos Jail theme featuring more than 30 “inmates” in matching black-and-white striped pants, a handful of “prison guards” to keep them in line, and Elvis dancing to “Jailhouse Rock.”

Candace Markwith of “Nana’s Bunch” said her family got involved in the parade 10 years ago as a way to honor her mother, Nana, who loved to watch the parade. They rallied a team including great-grandchildren and started what has become a family tradition. This year, more than 40 people are joining Nana’s Bunch.

The parade encourages participants to bring a little bit of zaniness to their floats. Dick Moon, former parade chairman for 15 years, recalled one of his favorites: a giant boat-shaped float with fake seagulls attached to long fishing rods that hung out over the crowd and squirted “seagull poop,” or shaving cream, on parade-goers below.

“Robinson Family and Friends” is another familiar name to Cayucos parade regulars; the family from Fresno has been participating for 23 years and has won the sweepstakes award four or five times. Bill Robinson said when the family began vacationing on the Central Coast in the summers, the kids always enjoyed watching the Cayucos parade, so they decided to get involved.

Robinson said they feel very welcomed in Cayucos.

“The whole town has been great to us and embraced us,” he said.

They bring a crowd of about 150 people to the parade each year, with friends and family ready to cheer on the float.

Keeping it very much a family affair, Bill Robinson’s wife, Kathy, sews all of the costumes for the float each year, including stitching 30 penguin costumes for a previous “March of the Penguins”-themed float.

Shea said he brings out his old Suburban once a year when the Fourth of July rolls around and chases mice out of the car to prepare it for float decorations. The Sea Shanty makes T-shirts to sell each year with the float’s theme printed on them.

Shea estimates the float costs $1,000 for materials alone, plus lots of beer and food for the laborers. He considers it money well spent for the camaraderie and friendship of the day.

“We started out doing [the float] for the kids, and then they got old and had their own kids, so we have to do it for them, and now I think I’m stuck,” he said.

The families have kept their float themes a closely-guarded secret while working on them this year. On Saturday, parade-goers will finally see the results.

The Sea Shanty float is “Star Wars” meets “Jurassic World,” incorporating two of this years’ blockbuster hits with a giant dinosaur-shaped float being attacked by “Star Wars” characters, all choreographed to music.

Nana’s Bunch has chosen an Old West rodeo theme for its float, “Boots Scooting in Cayucos,” with cowboys and girls, rodeo clowns, barrel racing, bronco riding and western dancers. The family rehearses its musical numbers once Markwith’s son-in-law, Robert Heely, moves it from storage at his Paso Robles home to Cayucos shortly before parade day.

Both groups incorporated into their floats the Cayucos parade theme, “Home of the Free, Next to the Sea,” submitted by a Cayucos Elementary School fourth-grader in a competition to choose this year’s theme.

The Robinsons, known for turning a blind eye to the parade’s theme, created their own space theme this year with a space shuttle-shaped float and people dressed as astronauts, rockets, aliens, moon rocks and stars. Even the cow that jumped over the moon will make an appearance.

Keep an eye out for Robinson’s 92-year-old father, who walks alongside the float each year. When asked who the winner of this year’s parade would be, Shea, Markwith and Robinson were all confident they’d be the ones to take home sweepstakes and, more importantly, bragging rights.