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Community Roots: Selections from the Local Legacies Project
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"Harpo" rides in 1982 Parade
"Harpo" rides in San Bruno Posy Parade, June 6, 1982 Photo: Dave Dornlas

San Bruno Posy Parade

The flower-decked floats and entries in this children's parade were judged on how they best represented the theme chosen for that year. The oldest children's parade in the United States, it was first held in 1941 as a "festival of flowers" dedicated to children. Patterned after the famous Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, this parade was advertised as "The Tournament of Posies Parade." Eighty children marched in the first parade. Any child could enter and march as long as flowers predominated in the decoration of their tricycles, buggies, pets, etc. The paraders were grouped into "divisions." Division 1 included wagons, wheelbarrows, or carts that were pushed or pulled. Division 2 was tricycles, scooters, non-motorized "autos," velocipedes or wheeled toys, excluding bicycles. Division 3 was for doll or baby carriages. Division 4 was for "unique or original ideas." Division 5 was only for bicycles, and Division 6 was floats from children's organizations. No motorized vehicles were permitted. Beginning in 1944, a San Bruno schoolgirl was selected as Parade Princess, accompanied by a "court" of other young girls, all dressed in finery and flowers. In 1945, the Posy Parade Ball was inaugurated as a fund-raiser.

In 1989, the 49th Posy Parade became the focal point of San Bruno 75th anniversary. But in 1991, a seemingly innocuous change in the parade's divisions significantly altered the look and success of future parades. Division 1 became "Baseball," and later simply "Sports" (teams). Teams are allowed to march without any kind of floral decoration, so, by the end of the decade, the parade had deteriorated into dozens of sports teams, marching in uniform. By 1999, there were only three decorated carriage/buggy entries and only two cart/wagon entries. Other factors have also contributed to the Parade's decline: the urbanization of San Bruno, once a primarily rural community; working mothers with less time to devote to such a social event; the continued decline in support of local businesses. The parade was carried on in the 1990s: a princess and her court are still selected; the mayor still rides in a snorkel fire truck, a few bands march, as do the ubiquitous sports teams. But the parade does not have the flair nor the crowds of days gone by. Still, it is the city's unique claim to fame, and it is hoped that the tradition will survive.

Included in the project documentation are a 21-page history of the event, photos of the Parade with accompanying descriptions, a roster of the Posy Parade Princesses, Posy Parade ephemera (copies of newspaper articles, flyers, promotional materials), and a videotape of Posy Parade highlights (1963, 1997, 1998, and 1999).

Originally submitted by: Tom Lantos, Representative (12th District).

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The Local Legacies project provides a "snapshot" of American Culture as it was expressed in spring of 2000. Consequently, it is not being updated with new or revised information with the exception of "Related Website" links.

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