When Lezlie Barnson-DeNardin helped organize the second annual Summerlin Council Patriotic Parade in 1995, she and her husband helped lead a group of children on bikes and in wagons decorated with red, white and blue streamers.
The only other participant that year in the parade, which then traveled from the Summerlin Library to the Trails Park, was an Uncle Sam character on stilt, she said.
Twenty-three years later, the parade is celebrating its 25th anniversary on Thursday morning, with organizers promising its largest and most elaborate display of floats and performances yet.
“From the very beginning, it was a collective community experience,” said Barnson-DeNardin, director of community relations for the Summerlin Council. “Summerlin was so small as a community, and as it grew, so did the parade.”
The Summerlin Council organizes the Independence Day parade, and The Howard Hughes Corporation/Summerlin is the parade’s title sponsor of the parade.
This year’s parade’s escort and dignitary division kicks off at 8:30 a.m. from Hillpointe Road and Hills Center Drive, followed by the main body of the parade at 9 a.m. The route travels along Hills Center, tracing the southeast edge of The Trails Park, wrapping around part of Village Center Circle and ending on Trailwood Drive.
Cheers to 25 years
This parade theme this year is “celebration,” and it honors not only the event’s 25th year but also other famous anniversaries, such as the 50th anniversary of the Apollo moon landing, Barnson-DeNardin said.
Among the 25 giant inflatable balloons and more than 70 floats in the parade are multiple floats added in recognition of its anniversary, including the Cheers to 25 Years float, designed to put parade attendees “in the middle of a fireworks display,” Barnson-DeNardin said.
The float will feature performances from the Desert Angels gospel choir and the UNLV Scarlet Dance Line, which Barnson-DeNardin said will turn the float into a mobile concert.
Special floats added for the 25th anniversary include the Apollo Moon Landing 50th Anniversary float, Mary Poppins’ Jolly Holiday, Soaring with Dumbo, Mamma Mia Dance Party and The Wiz: Ease on Down the Road.
Avree Walker, production coordinator for the Performing and Visual Arts Summer Camp for Kids putting on the production of “The Wiz,” said students have been preparing for three weeks and will perform two songs during the parade.
Less than a week before the parade, the students spent Thursday afternoon practicing dance moves and putting finishing touches on their performance.
“A lot of them already love the music from ‘The Wiz’ and love the story,” Walker said. “To be able to re-introduce it to the students in this program has been really fun.”
Col. Cavan Craddock, commander of the 99th Air Base Wing at Nellis Air Force Base, will serve as the parade’s grand marshal. Gov. Steve Sisolak and Nevada first lady, Kathy Sisolak, also will take part in the parade.
The Vegas Golden Knights-themed float will return for another year, with Knights forwards Jonathan Marchessault and Ryan Reaves on board. Also making appearances are Las Vegas Aces players A’ja Wilson and Jackie Young, and mascots from the Las Vegas Aviators.
Barnson-DeNardin said that through its growth, the parade has come to represent and celebrate not only the Summerlin community, but also Las Vegas in general as more residents have become involved over the years.
Troy Gallo began volunteering in the parade as a freshman in college, and has continued for 16 years, taking on roles from driving floats to choreographing a flash mob.
“If they have a crazy idea, they usually give me a call and I’m always down for it,” Gallo said.
In his time volunteering, Gallo said he has seen the floats become increasingly elaborate and “come alive” with elements such as bubbles, confetti and, one year, a moving flying carpet on an Aladdin float. But even with its increasing grandeur, the parade always manages to capture “the heart of the community,” he said.
This parade is anticipated to be the largest yet, in both attendance and size, Barnson-DeNardin said. There will be 2,500 participants and 500 volunteers in the parade, with more than 40,000 paradegoers lining the route. Dozens of local schools and community groups will participate in the parade or assist with parade operations.
Despite the growth and changes over the year, the parade hasn’t lost touch with its traditions, Barnson-DeNardin said.
Just like the first parade, kids on bikes will kick off Thursday’s parade, and don’t be surprised to see Uncle Sam there too.
“No matter how big the parade has become,” Barnson-DeNardin said, “it still has the charm of a small town parade, just now with big city pageantry.”