When did Northwest Hills start putting on a parade and why is it so important to the community?
This is our 41st Annual Parade - reportedly the longest running in Austin. Everyone in Northwest Hills agrees that July 4th has a special and unique feel of togetherness and support. Our neighborhood is very proud of our long tradition of showing up BIG on Independence Day. Neighbors of all ages come together that day to celebrate our country in a positive way - our neighborhood really bonds and you can feel it the rest of the year. It's important to do that and to remind ourselves what an amazing place we live in.
What did folks see and do in this year's parade?
NWACA takes our Parade responsibility to heart. Our goal is to make the parade bigger and better every year for residents and hundreds of others who travel to our neighborhood to enjoy it. We had our annual crowd pleasers - antique cars, marching bands, scout troops, dance teams, clowns, decorated bikes, wagons, strollers, costumes, floats, water guns, ponies, and, of course, our unofficial mascot, "Sherman" the tank-driving bunny. NWACA residents continue to surprise us! As always, Lady Liberty and Uncle Sam walked the parade route and handed out candy and prizes. We were thrilled to again showcase the precision dance moves of the Ladies Lawn Chair Brigade - a star-studded multi-generational group of ladies who used aluminum lawn chairs as part of their "routine" performed several times along the route.
How has the parade changed over the years?
Every year our parade changes a little because we pride ourselves on welcoming new and creative entries that focus on fun. Groups from all over Austin seek us out and beg to be in our parade because they've heard it's the biggest and the best. It gets bigger every year but we have maintained an informal atmosphere and a relatively short route that all ages and abilities can manage. It is a little less than half a mile long and we do not charge a fee to enter a float. We have also added significantly to our post parade party - it has become a real festival with tons of games and prizes for the kids, free snow cones, watermelon, popcorn, donuts, face painting and more. This year we also have a twelve foot water slide, ponies to pet, and balloon animals. People come for the parade and stay for the party!
How many folks take part in this event?
It is impossible to count but we estimate that over 2,500 people attend our parade. We think more than 750 participate in it by the time all the wagon wheels and spokes are counted.
What feeling do you hope folks leave with?
We want to give people a feeling of old fashioned, wholesome, fun for all ages with a healthy dose of Austin weirdness, NWACA-style. We hope people love our parade and feel like a part of it whether they live here or visit, watch or participate. We also hope it makes them aware of and thankful for what a wonderful country and city we live in.
Why is July fourth so important to you?
I grew up in a small town (Tyler) where we played in the streets as kids, rode our bikes to our friends' houses, and neighbors took care of each other. Northwest Hills is still very much that way, despite Austin's growth and everything that comes with it, including demographic changes in our area. July 4th has a feel like no other - it is a day that we come together and celebrate that special feeling of being neighbors who enjoy and support each other. Everyone has the day off and we all start the day at the parade, then we spend the rest of the day going from one backyard BBQ to the next. It is one of the things that makes our neighborhood feel special and unique. It bonds us all year long.
What's your best parade memory?
The year my husband and I took our oldest son Cal to his first NWACA parade, 6 years ago. He was not quite a year old and mesmerized by every red, white and blue sparkle that went by. I knew at that moment how special our parade was and that I wanted to play an active role in keeping it alive and strong for years to come. I'm proud to be doing that this year and thankful to all of our neighbors who take part every year. It truly takes a village.
Shannon Phillips Meroney