Santa Monica will celebrate the nation’s independence this Thursday with a 4th of July parade featuring floats, bands and community groups. This year’s parade will also focus not only on Lady Liberty but, well, ladies of liberty.

This year, the parade’s overall theme will be Lady Liberty — The Year of the Woman, a theme celebrating women and the difference they make in Santa Monica’s community. Misti Kerns, President and CEO of Santa Monica Travel and Tourism, will be honored as the Parade Grand Marshal, traveling down the parade via a double-decker bus surrounded by established and up-and-coming female leaders.

“It is a very authentic local neighborhood event,” said Kerns of the parade. “It’s really special. We’ve all been to a Rose Bowl or big parade, but this is reflective of the community.”

She said the event is a great reason for locals to get out of the house and explor a local business or park.

Kerns joined SMTT in 1997 and has served in her current role for more than 20 years. She is a Certified Meeting Professional (CMP) and a Certified Destination Management Executive (CDME). Kerns founded the ‘I AM Santa Monica’ program, which has certified over 3,500 local employees and community members as official Santa Monica ambassadors. Under her leadership, Kerns also spearheaded the creation of Santa MoniCARES, a separate non-profit organization that provides the local tourism industry a platform to support the important community organizations tackling issues relevant to the city.   

She is an active member of the Santa Monica Pier Corporation Board of Directors, the Santa Monica Chamber of Commerce, Santa Monica Bay Area Human Relations Council and serves on local, state and national tourism boards. Kerns has been a resident of Santa Monica for nearly 25 years and lives her husband and daughter.

Kerns says the parade theme — a theme Santa Monica Travel and Tourism developed in conjunction with the Ocean Park Association — is meant to be celebratory and welcoming for all walks of life, showing gratitude to women and our welcoming city.

“This community and other communities are led and supported by a lot of strong women and the Fourth of July is the perfect opportunity to celebrate that,” Kerns said. “To be out celebrating that on this kind of scale is important. I think we can all appreciate that, no matter your socio-economic or political standing.”

The theme is a first in the parade’s now-13-year history. Kerns bristles when asked what it means to be Grand Marshal of this woman-empowerment parade, saying it’s not just about her, it’s about uplifting all women in the community and celebrating the community itself.

“I’m just glad to set the tone of the theme,” she said. “Lady Liberty has long stood for a worldwide welcome. We have a lot of visitors to Santa Monica every year for this event. This is a special time for them to see what America is all about.”

Santa Monica’s 13th Annual Fourth of July Parade takes place July 4, 9:30 a.m. to noon on  Main Street. Parade participants will gather at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium at 8:45 a.m.

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