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Las Vegans celebrate Fourth of July at Summerlin parade

Security guard Joseph Cataloni was supposed to be at work by 6 a.m. Monday to direct traffic, which seemed early for a 9 o’clock Fourth of July parade.

But he was called in even earlier than that. People started showing up at 5 a.m., he said while signaling a car.

About 40,000 people were expected to come to the curb and watch floats, Macy’s parade-style 20-foot-tall balloons, and performers stroll past in the Summerlin Council Patriotic Parade. That’s double the capacity of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas’ Thomas & Mack Center, but they’re sitting along an eight-tenths-mile stretch of asphalt.

No head count was taken, but the attendance forecast was within reach.

Frisbee-throwing children, socializing parents in lawn chairs and standing latecomers tightly lined both sides of Hills Center Drive in Las Vegas’ Summerlin neighborhood.

In a time when children are accustomed to fast-paced, high-tech entertainment — 3-D movies, interactive video games, hand-held DVD players and electronic toys — how has a snail’s-pace parade, not much different than those of a century ago, retained its popularity?

More and more people pack the street’s grass banks each year, several longtime attendees said.

Three shuttles transported people to the parade this year because of parking shortages.

“When it started out, it was literally a few kids from the neighborhood on bikes festooned in red, white and blue steamers,” said Tom Warden, senior vice president of The Howard Hughes Corp., Summerlin master planner.

“There were more people in the parade than watching those first few years.”

It’s one of the few remaining Independence Day parades in Las Vegas and, by far, the largest.

Randy Lemmo is pleasantly surprised his children look forward to the parade each year.

“Growing up, this is what we did,” said Lemmo, father of two. “You want to at least expose them to what we experienced. This builds values, seeing the community come together, patriotism.”

But children’s interests are changing, and parents have to put effort into making parades fun, said Riley Clayton, father of four girls.

The parade is “bigger and better” every year, but parents have to make it “interactive,” he said.

“They like it as much as any holiday,” Clayton said of his children, while one of his younger daughters danced with red, white and blue pompoms. “They actually ask each year, ‘Are we going to decorate the trees, dad?’ ”

The family sat between two large trees spread 20 feet apart and paralleling the road on Monday. Red, white and blue ribbons wrapped the trunks. A clothesline decorated with dangling pennants of the same colors was strung to the trees.

Clayton started bringing a homemade stop sign attached to a racquetball racquet three years ago, prompting the paraders to stop and perform as his children chanted.

Harleys stopped to twist their throttles, fire engines and police motorcycles flicked on their sirens, and two-story-high balloons were turned into puppets as line holders coordinated tugs.

A 40-foot-long balloon of a soaring bald eagle was coaxed into a flapping motion.

Moments earlier, parents of deceased military members walked by, holding blown-up photos of their children in uniform.

“Thank you,” yelled a woman from the crowd.

Contact reporter Trevon Milliard at tmilliard@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0279.

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