71st Annual Parade is a Smooth Ride

By MICHAEL AUSHENKER | Contributing Writer

As is tradition in Pacific Palisades, thousands turned out along Sunset Boulevard on July 4 to celebrate Independence Day at the 71st Annual Palisades Parade, presented by Palisades Americanism Parade Association.

However, this year, there were five notable no-shows: the skydivers.

For the first time in more than two decades, the parade, headed by Grand Marshal Mike Lanning and Parade Marshals Co-Honorary Mayors Janice and Billy Crystal, did not start with the landing of five Carey Peck skydivers at Sunset and Swarthmore Avenue.

The reasons, PAPA Chief Rich Wilken told the Palisadian-Post, were bi-fold: A skydiver had suffered an injury and a certain FAA-approved plane could not be obtained in time.

That said, the day could not have gone smoother. Attendees were instead treated to a fly-over by a vintage World War II aircraft, the 1944 Marine SNJ-5 Texan nicknamed “War Dog.”

“Walt Disney had designed the logo for the group, so the planes had ‘WD’ on them,” Wilken explained.

The surprises did not end there: At Los Angeles Fire Department Station 69, where traditionally locals could be found in the hot dog line, Jeff Goldblum handed out free barbecue to a line of eager fans.

“This is the best Fourth of July I’ve ever had,” Goldblum said as he doled out grilled treats—and coming from the star of two “Independence Day” movies, that carries currency.

Goldblum’s appearance was part of a British-produced reality show segment as a remote crew captured the scene before he rode off perched atop a Station 69 fire engine.

Minutes earlier, the Crystals glided by on an ambitious float paying homage to the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 lunar landing. 

Other parade highlights, which featured the theme “May the Fourth Be With You,” included the Doo-Dah Parade-like Optimist Club members in neckties and boxer shorts and colorful choreography by members of Lan Nattharsin Thai Dance Group, which brought 20 ladies and men in traditional garb from Thailand.

“We love the crowd, we love to do it,” said Jida Sukpradit, who has been operating the Thai Town-based school for two decades and added that her dance troupe has walked the parade for seven years.

VIPs such as Pacific Palisades Teen Talent Contest winner Hunter Barnett (who earlier that day sung the National Anthem at the Palisades Will Rogers 5 & 10K), City Controller Ron Galperin and Councilmember Mike Bonin also floated by.

“My family loves this parade,” said State Senator Ted Lieu, who once again rode in the parade with wife Betty and sons Brennan, 16, and Austin, 13.

This was the first-ever parade year with Palisades Village open, and developer Caruso had its decked-out VW van and bicycles out in full force.

Along the sidelines, parties abounded and parade observers cheered as the floats came through. Up and down parade-route streets Via De La Paz and Toyopa Street, residents opened their doors and front lawns to the grilling-party action.

For the fifth straight year, Tripp and Kelly Nassour continued to throw their friends and neighbors a taco party, as kids played on an air mattress and older folk enjoyed plates of tacos and quesadillas, courtesy of a La Chatita cart. 

“It keeps getting bigger and bigger,” said Kelly, who expected some 300 partiers that day.

Back along Sunset, actor Paul Lieberstein, who for nine seasons played Toby on NBC’s “The Office,” took in the parade with family members for his second consecutive year.

“There are few places in LA that feel like a town. This reminds me of a Fourth of July in the town I grew up in,” Lieberstein said, likening the atmosphere to his Westport, Connecticut, youth.

As Palisades Charter High School Marching Band rounded the library at Toyopa and Alma Real Drive, the bandleader elicited much laughter after he improvised a lyric from a classic Beastie Boys song.

With that, the 2019 parade had drawn to a close.