It was the year 2000 and excitement was at an all-time high. The community was embracing a new century, full of bright futures and endless possibilities, and residents were coming together in celebration. The eyes of every man, woman and child were bright as they relished the small-town feel of this big city in a new age, and local leaders were looking for an iconic event to help bring everyone together.
That is where history begins for the LAX Coastal Fourth of July Parade.
Westchester had already begun to celebrate the millennium, thanks to a series of events dubbed “The Gathering” and hosted by the Westchester/Playa del Rey Historical Society, but something larger was needed to commemorate such a momentous occasion. Historical Society President and longtime Westchester resident, Mary Lou Crockett, spearheaded the idea of a community parade. Needing a community partner to help bring this idea to life, the LAX Coastal Chamber of Commerce (formerly known as the Westchester/LAX Chamber of Commerce) jumped on board to help.
Then Chamber President, Gwen Vuchsas, worked with the inaugural parade committee to rally participants, volunteers and sponsors to celebrate America’s birthday under the theme, “A Community with a Kindred Spirit.” The committee worked tirelessly to produce an event worthy of this amazing community; they ensured streets were closed, signage was placed, announcer booths were set up, posters were printed and more.
On the morning of July 4th, each committee member was nervous, wondering if anyone would show up to what they believed to be Westchester’s first—and only—community parade. When thousands appeared, it was clear this was more than just a celebration of the year 2000; it was the start of a brand new Westchester tradition. This would be first of many LAX Coastal Fourth of July Parades!
Over the years, the parade has seen many faces. From themes recognizing “Hometown Heroes” (2005), “America’s Moments in History” (2007), or “LMU at 100” (2011), to including more than 50 parade entries, attracting more than 8,000 spectators and printing a robust parade program (courtesy of the HomeTown News), this parade has truly grown since its inauguration
The parade committee, still spearheaded by Gwen Vuchsas and the LAX Coastal Chamber, is honored each year to watch this community come together in a sea of red, white and blue. It is said that true hometown events are rare in large cities, but through the dedication of local residents and businesses we can truly say that the LAX Coastal Fourth of July Parade is our area’s version of a Norman Rockwell painting: proudly patriotic with community camaraderie, and a splash of happy smiles.
The year 2019 marks another special milestone for our local parade: its 20th anniversary. Everyone can agree that when it comes to both country and community, we always work better when we work together. To celebrate the beauty of the diversity, inclusivity and collaboration that helped create this great nation, this year’s Parade Committee chose the theme, “America, Better Together!” This parade will celebrate what connects us, with entries promoting unity, diversity, working together and thriving in this prosperous country.
“The parade is such a positive community event, and with our 20th anniversary, we really wanted to highlight that great things can be accomplished when everyone comes together for common goals and collaboration,” said LAX Coastal Chamber President/CEO, Christina Davis in an interview. “Our parade wouldn’t be possible without volunteers, neighbors, sponsors and our participants, and we’re excited to celebrate what unites us all as members of our community, our city and our country.”
The LAX Coastal Fourth of July Parade is a tradition—our tradition—and we cannot wait to spend another year with you celebrating community, country, and how America truly is better together.