The man with the plan: Santa Monica resident Jeff Jarow is the driving force behind the parade and he said this year’s event wouldn’t have been possible without help from Magdalena Davis. Courtesy photo

After a two year pandemic hiatus, the 14th Annual Main Street Parade is back in all its star spangled splendor. 

This well loved community tradition carries an extra level of significance this year, due not only to the length of time since it last took place, but also due to the special role established to honor essential workers. In lieu of a traditional parade grand master, all essential workers are to be highlighted, celebrated and considered leaders of the annual event as the community shares a collective ‘thank you’ for their continuous sacrifices over the course of the pandemic. 

“I want to give back to the people something that everybody’s in agreement about, and everybody loves the parade,” said parade founder and organizer Jeff Jarow. “Especially after COVID, people can’t wait for this parade. They are so excited to be out there and experience a nice holiday… and this year our specific message is ‘thank you to our essential workers, we couldn’t have done it without you’.”

Jeff Jarow founded this event in 2007 with a simple goal of giving locals a place to gather, celebrate and bond. It has since become a beloved community tradition and one of the few times a year when the bustling tourism and transit heavy city of Santa Monica closer resembles a quaint and tight knit neighborhood. 

As always, the parade is sponsored by the Ocean Park Association and runs along Main Street, the commercial and communal heart of the Ocean Park neighborhood. However, in a break from tradition this year’s parade will run in reverse, beginning at the south end of Main Street and proceeding merrily northward until hitting Pico Boulevard. This route change was due to construction by the Civic Center parking lot, which rendered the traditional staging location inaccessible. Staging this year will instead take place at the South Beach Lots at the end of Ashland Avenue.

Several groups of essential workers have dedicated floats in this year’s parade including Santa Monica Firefighters, Santa Monica Police Officers, teachers from the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District, as well as workers from Santa Monica’s hotels and restaurants. 

Jarow said he founded the parade with the purpose of creating a space of common ground; an event that everyone supports, enjoys and feels welcome participating in. As the years have gone on and politics, both local and national, have only become more divisive, Jarow believes this goal has only become more important. 

“To get everyone in one place like this, this is really that one time that happens and it’s sort of a place where everybody gives up whatever differences they may have had,” said Jarow. “This is a place where it feels that Santa Monicans come together to be together and recognize the importance of the parade and the meaningfulness of why we live here and why we do what we do.”

While politics are to be put aside for the day, there will still be many politicians in attendance. In past years the parade has drawn out all of City Council as well as the State Senator and Santa Monica’s US congressional representative. The event gives residents a rare opportunity to celebrate and connect with their elected officials as fellow patriots and lovers of the Santa Monica community.

In addition to essential workers and politicians, the parade also highlights the many other amazing organizations and groups that make Santa Monica such a wonderful city to live in. This includes local nonprofit organizations, small businesses and kids activity groups. All in all, around one hundred decked out floats will be traveling down Main Street for the common cause of having a good time.