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 that first year 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, golf carts were rented, 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 of Commerce, is honored each year to watch the LAX Coastal 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 LAX Coastal Fourth of July Parade is a tradition—our tradition—and we cannot wait to spend another year with you celebrating both community and country.
Happy Birthday, America!
From yours truly, Westchester.
Help us fill in the blanks! If you have any old parade posters, or know any missing parade themes, send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.