By Raiza Giorgi

Just before a big heat wave arrived, thousands of people were able to enjoy one more temperate summer day as they participated in Fourth of July festivities, including the big parade through downtown Solvang.

“We were really lucky to get the nice weather before the heat wave, and I am always amazed at how many people come from out of town to enjoy the parade and fireworks. We have a great town, and I am really proud of all the volunteers that make this day so special,” said parade emcee Allan Jones.

Jones was joined in the announcers’ booth by local celebrity Shaun Cassidy.

“Shaun was a great co-announcer this year, and we both really enjoyed seeing all the great entries,” Jones added.

Once again the crowd was awed by Solvang Elementary School student Libby Padfield singing the National Anthem.

Children lined the streets of Solvang, showing their American spirit, during the Fourth of July parade.

This year hosted 71 parade entries that included Grand Marshals Jim and Phyllis Axtell of Solvang. Phyllis is a former principal of Ballard Elementary, and Jim served in World War II before becoming part of a team developing jets that produced the XP-80. The code name for the project was “Skunk Works,” after a reference in the newspaper cartoon “Li’l Abner.”

“While I was in the Air Force we ended up as the first squadron that went to Hiroshima after they dropped the bomb. I can tell you, that is something I will never forget, just the utter destruction for as far as the eye could see. It was heartbreaking,” Jim Axtell said in an interview with the Star in February.

As the Axtells rode by they were greeted with cheers and applause from the crowd.

Other notable entries included the prototype of the Lunar Rover built by valley resident Putty Mills for the space program in the 1960s. The 95-year-old rode on it with a prop astronaut as many people took photos.

Other popular entries included the many equestrians with the Los Charros group, including one of their riders doing rope tricks while standing on his horse.

Judy Adams and her Jersey cow Dolly were a huge hit in the Fourth of July parade.

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. One person walked up to greet the team and they soaked him completely, with every water gun aimed at him, to the delight of the crowd.

Solvang Mayor Jim Richardson won the award for best Candy Thrower.

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 the adults, and concerts by several local bands before the fireworks started at 9 p.m.

Award winners in the July 4 parade were:

Sweepstakes Award –  Reel Cowboys

Best Use of Parade Theme –  Rotary Club of Solvang

Most Patriotic –  Daughters of the American Revolution

Most Original – Moon Rover vehicle by creator Putty Mills

Most Amusing – Herbie the Love Bug

Most Unique –  Mecha Pirates Team of Santa Ynez Valley Union High School

Most Creative – Pedego Electric Bikes

Best Band –  Charros Unidos of Central Coast

Best Singing Group – Soul Cats

Best Singing – Single –  Libby Padfield, National Anthem

Best Family Group – Willow Creek Ranch Friends & Family

Best Church Group – Santa Ynez Valley Presbyterian Church

Best Senior Group – Solvang Senior Center

Best Animal Group – Santa Ynez Valley Humane Society

Best Wagon Group – Santa Maria Elks Officers Wagon & Outriders

Best Wagon – Single – San Lorenzo Seminary

Best Automobile Group – 3 Patriotic Corvettes

Best Automobile – Single – 1936 Pontiac Cabriolet, Dr. Baeke, SYV Plastic Surgery

Best Automobile – Antique  –  1936 Ford Deluxe Roadster, Ron & Cindy Long

Best Automobile Antique Group – Santa Maria and SYV Model A Clubs

Best Fire Engine –Solvang Station 30, New Ladder Truck

Best Equestrian Group – Shooting Stars

Best Equestrian – Single – Tequileros Seniors

Best Viking Ship –  Vikings of Solvang

Best Color Guard –  American Legion Post #160

Best Street Sweeper – Broom Bear

Road Apple Crew  Lucky Clover 4-H Team One

Best Sport Group –  Boys Water Polo Team of Santa Ynez Valley Union High School

Best Military Group –  Flat Fender Friends

Best Walking Group – Friends of the Library

Best Dancing Group –  Garcia Dance Studio

Most Energetic – Figueroa Mountain Brewing

Best Group for a Cause – Veggie Rescue

Best School Group –  Varsity and JV Football Teams of Santa Ynez Valley Union High School

Best Youth Group –  Lucky Clover 4-H

Best Dog –  Great Pyrenees on float of Law Office of Mark Massara

Best Candy Thrower – Mayor Jim Richardson of Solvang