ABOUT THE PARADE
For over eighty years, the Hollyhock Lane Parade has welcomed each Fourth of July morning on the streets of the northwest portion of Ottawa Hills. Started as a bike parade for kids in 1934, it was a way to entertain the kids at little cost during the Great Depression. It then became a tradition in itself when the neighbors running it incorporated as the Calvin-Giddings Patriotic Association, with the objectives “ to Instill Patriotism” and “to Promote Neighborliness.” Because it has always operated informally, with one or two meetings of neighbors to set it up, and has encouraged participation by one and all, it has become the longest-running continuous Independence Day parade in Michigan. Over the years fireworks (at 5:30 am!) have given way to a more leisurely march time of 8:30 am with lots of additional marching units. Bikes are still prominent, but so are kids’ floats, Fire and Police vehicles, antique cars, Scouts and church groups, elected officials and candidates for office. Basically, if you show up, you can be in the parade.
Ceremonies following the parade are held in Hollyhock Lane, between Calvin and Giddings Avenues. A great jazz combo, coffee and cookies for the adults and popsicles for the kids, cash prizes for the best kids’ floats, some patriotic sing-alongs and a short address on an appropriate topic provide an opportunity for neighbors to gather, chat and reflect on the real meaning of the day.
The parade is always held on the Fourth of July, unless that date occurs on Sunday. Then the parade occurs on Saturday the third. The events are supported financially through a door-to-door collection in Ottawa Hills and the neighborhood to the west, and by a donation from the Ottawa Hills Association.
The City of Grand Rapids, which shut down the first parade because we didn’t have a permit, has ever since been our biggest supporter from the logistical standpoint.
Each year we end the ceremonies by singing “God Bless America.” And then have brunch! And a nap, if we can get it!