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Participants in last year's Fourth of July Parade on Main Street. This year organizers are expecting larger crowds because the holiday falls on a weekend. The budget is expected to be roughly $5,000 more than last year. (photo by Brandon Wise)

MAIN STREET — A growing, popular, local tradition celebrating America’s birthday continues this summer as a coalition of neighborhood groups team up once again to put on the Fourth of July Parade for a third straight summer.

Organizers predict the event will draw even more participants and spectators this year since the holiday will fall on a weekend, estimating that more than 7,000 people will line Main Street that day.

“It’ll be a big holiday weekend of spectators,” said Mary Marlow, the president of the Ocean Park Association (OPA), which is organizing the parade.

City Hall has pledged about $15,800 of the total budget for the community event, which is projected to cost more than $25,000, paying for city-related expenses including the permit fee, public restroom access to the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, shuttle service by the Big Blue Bus, overtime for the Santa Monica Police Department and costs to use parking meter spaces along Main Street.

Along with the popularity, the budget for the parade has grown since its inception in 2007 when the entire production cost around $15,000, rising to about $20,000 in its second year. One of the reasons for the increasing expenses is the extra marketing and advertising costs anticipated this year. City Hall gave about $6,000 the first year.

Aside from City Hall’s commitment, much of the budget is covered through OPA and sponsors, which includes businesses, organizations and neighborhood groups, including the Friends of Sunset Park, North of Montana Neighborhood Association, and Wilshire Montana Neighborhood Coalition. OPA is currently in talks with the Pico Neighborhood Association for sponsorship.

The groups all worked together to apply for the grant from City Hall.

Marlow said there were some concerns with how the economy will affect sponsorship.

The event started out with just two neighborhood groups — OPA and North of Montana Neighborhood Association (NOMA) — financially backing the event before it was joined by FOSP and Wilmont last year. Approximately 70 groups and 1,000 individuals participated in 2007, drawing between 3,000 and 5,000 spectators. The parade grew the following year when about 1,100 people participated and between 5,000 to 7,000 people lined the street.

The parade last year also featured two marching bands from Santa Monica High School and the UCLA Alumni Band. Participants typically feature city officials, local organizations, businesses and individual residents.

“We wanted to have an event that brought the city together and brought all the neighborhoods together,” Mark Armour, a member of the NOMA board, said. “It’s a big city, not a huge city, but it was something that we thought would help bring the community together.”

In similar fashion to last year, the parade will take an environmental theme this year, with organizers encouraging participants to drive electric vehicles or ride their bikes.

The parade marshal this year will be Fire Chief Jim Hone.

Jeanne Dodson, the chairwoman of the Wilshire Montana Neighborhood Coalition, described the parade as “goofy, down-home fun,” a unifying community event that she believes is unique in the city.

“It’s a nice way to get together and have a community event where we all really remember that we all live in the same community,” she said.

Some have expressed interest in rotating the parade route to other major thoroughfares in the city, including Wilshire Boulevard and Montana Avenue. Marlow said the change would have to be authorized by the City Council.

The event is free for participants and application and waiver forms will be posted on OPA’s Web site — www.oceanpark.net — starting in early June.

“The Fourth of July Parade is truly a local event where we’re celebrating each other as well as the Fourth of July and the Constitution,” Mayor Ken Genser said. “I think it’s terrific and to think that it’s virtually all put on by volunteer power makes it even nicer.”

melodyh@smdp.com

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