By Raiza Giorgi


Downtown Solvang became a sea of red, white and blue on the Fourth of July as people dressed in America’s colors and waving flags lined the streets to watch the annual Independence Day parade.

Spectators cheered and stood for the color guard from American Legion Post No. 160 as it began its march down Mission Drive. Next came the American Legion riders on motorcycles, honking and waving to the crowd.

“This was one of the biggest crowds we’ve had for a while in Solvang, and it was a wonderful day to see friends on the floats and make new friends with whomever sat next to you,” said Tracy Farhad, executive director of the Solvang Conference and Visitor’s Bureau. “Solvang Rotary did a great job organizing the parade.”

This year’s parade, with the theme “We the People,” had 76 entries that included Grand Marshals Rutledge “Putty” Mills and his wife Carol.

Putty Mills was directly involved with NASA’s Apollo missions, training astronauts after building the prototype of the Lunar Rover for the Apollo 17 mission in 1972.

This year is the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission that first landed on the moon, when astronaut Neil Armstrong said those famous words, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”

One of the two prototypes Mills built is stored in the barn at his home in Santa Ynez, and it rode on a trailer in the July 4 parade.

Other popular entries in the parade included the many equestrians with the Los Charros group, including one of their riders doing rope tricks.

Children eagerly ran out to pick up pieces of candy and also to get soaked by the Santa Ynez Valley Union High School water polo team. Those same children also loved the bags of baby carrots handed out by Veggie Rescue.

Judy Adams pulled her Jersey cow, Dolly, who had an American flag draped over her.

The Atterdag Village of Solvang shuttled some of their residents to places along the parade route, and when its float came by, those residents cheered and hooted.

The Wildling Museum and NatureTrack partnered up and walked along with a nature theme.

The cast from PCPA’s “Million Dollar Quartet” included Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis. Johnny Cash and Carl Perkins, who got a lot of cheers as they drove by.

The festivities kept going after the parade with a barbecue hosted in Solvang Park by the Solvang Rotary Club and a free concert.

Later in the afternoon the Rotary Club of Santa Ynez sponsored the annual festival at Mission Santa Ines, which included bounce houses and games for children, beer and wine booths for adults, and concerts by several local bands before the fireworks capped off the day at 9 p.m.