’s been an Independence Day parade in Morgan Hill almost as long
as there’s been a Morgan Hill.
There’s been an Independence Day parade in Morgan Hill almost as long as there’s been a Morgan Hill.

Bob and Maureen Hunt, “chair” of the event (the two prefer the singular as they consider themselves a single organizer), researched the history of the parade in microfilm of old Morgan Hill Times newspapers.

The earliest recorded document of the town’s annual parade dates back to July 4, 1894. But the parade that year and following decades were so well organized, the couple believe Fourth of July parades had already been going on in the town for many years previous to it.

“The parade was really slick at that time,” Bob said. “It had top-quality floats, so it must have been going before that time.”

Pictures of 19th century Morgan Hill parades, replicated from the Morgan Hill Historical Museum archives, hang in the Marie Callender’s restaurant on Cochrane Road. They show how ornate the citizens of the community could get back then with decorating their floats .

“They had large flat-bed horse wagons,” Bob said. “They’d have chairs or kinds of bleacher seating on them for the people to sit on as the horses and mules pulled them along. All of these were decorated so that the wheels were hidden and the whole thing would appear to magically float along.”

That’s one explanation of where the word “float” came from, he said.

The tradition of parades goes back at least 3,500 years, he said. The ancient Egyptians and Sumerians often held elaborate processions at religiously significant occasions throughout the year.

“There seems to be something that is inherent in the human psyche that we want to celebrate and honor different groups,” Maureen said. “Sometimes it’s the gods or the pharaohs or governors or other operating officials. They would be honored.”

Patriotic parades became prominent with the rise of nationalism, Bob said.

Military parades, such as those held in China and Russia, often are used as a display of armaments and warrior strength to intimidate enemies.

And in America, the Fourth of July celebration would not be quite the same without the tradition in many communities of having local citizens parade down the main street. Although the 21st century has gizmos and gadgets that would seem fantastic to the people of 1894, they would easily feel at home standing among the spectators watching this year’s parade, Bob believes.

“It was a good parade back then,” he said. “It has a lot of the same features that we’re doing today. They had floats, bicycles, horses and horses and horses. People dressed in patriotic finery. There was a lot of excellent floats.”

Many of the Morgan Hill’s Independence Day events this weekend hearken back to the long-gone days. In the 1890s, children sang patriotic songs at the local school house.

On Sunday night, children at Britton School will continue that well-loved recital. Back in the Victorian Age the town held a one-mile footrace on July 4; and so, this Monday morning, a 5 kilometer race will be held. The folks way back when even held a street dance and an evening fireworks show, two events that are also repeated in Morgan Hill this weekend.

But the highlight for all– then and now – was the downtown parade. As the elaborate procession jaunted along, feelings of pride for American values swept the hearts of people of the Victorian Age just as much as people in the present Information Age.

“I don’t know what it is, but people for some reason love a parade,” Maureen said. “That old saying, ‘I love a parade’ it’s absolutely true.”

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A staff member wrote, edited or posted this article, which may include information provided by one or more third parties.


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