Vail America Days Parade mixes new entries and old |

Vail America Days Parade mixes new entries and old

Lindsay Bribiescas
Look out for the Vail Precision Lawn Chair Demonstration Team at the Vail America Days Parade on July 4.
Anthony Thornton | Weekly file photo |

Vail America Days Parade

When: Tuesday, July 4, from 10 a.m. to noon.

Where: Parade route begins at Golden Peak and goes to Lionshead.

Cost: Free.

By the Numbers

65: Parade entries

25,000-40,000: Spectators in attendance

7: Award categories for parade entries

43: Years the annual parade has strolled through Vail.


What: Vail fireworks show set to music.

Where: Golden Peak, Vail.

Who: For all ages.

When: July 4, dusk (conditions permitting).

Cost: Free.


Where: Parking garages in Lionshead and Vail Village (overflow parking on South Frontage Road and paid parking at Ford Park).

Cost: Free, Ford park costs $10.

When: Throughout the holiday week and weekend.

Vail America Days Schedule


Vail Lacrosse Shootout: 8 a.m. - 5 p.m.; Ford Park and Vail Mountain School

Vail Lacrosse Shootout/Thompson Brothers Lacrosse Camp Play Day: 9 a.m. - 3 p.m.; Homestake Peak School Stadium

Vail Mountain Top Yoga Series, presented by Supergoop!: 10 a.m. – 11 a.m.; The 10th deck at the top of Vail’s

Bravo! Vail: Dallas Symphony Orchestra Mendelssohn, Prokofiev & A World Premiere: 6 p.m.; Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater

Farm to Table Dinner: 6 p.m.; Meadow Drive


Ticket sale - walk up only for 7/4 Bravo! Vail Patriotic Concert: 8 a.m.; Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater Box Office

Vail Lacrosse Shootout - 8 a.m. - 5 p.m.: Ford Park, Vail Athletic Field; Vail Mountain School

Vail Mountain Top Yoga Series, presented by Supergoop!: 10 a.m. – 11 a.m.; The 10th deck at the top of Vail’s Gondola One

Vail Family Fun Fest: 11 a.m. - 3 p.m.; Lionshead Mall/Vail Square at Arrabelle

Bravo! Vail: Dallas Symphony Orchestra A Music Director’s Farewell: The Rite of Spring: 6 p.m.; Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater


Vail Lacrosse Shootout: 8 a.m. - 5 p.m.; Ford Park, Vail Athletic Field; Vail Mountain School

Vail Farmers’ Market and Art Show: 10 a.m. - 3:30 p.m.; Meadow Drive, Int’l Bridge, Vail Village

Jammin’ Jazz Kids: 11 a.m. - 12 p.m.; Solaris Terrace

Vail Jazz @ the Market: 12 p.m. - 3 p.m.; Solaris Terrace

Bravo! Vail: Dallas Symphony Orchestra Ellis Hall: John Williams: Music From the Movies: 6 p.m.; Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater


Vail Lacrosse Shootout: 8 a.m. - 5 p.m.; Ford Park, Vail Athle@c Field; Vail Mountain School

Vail Public Library Book Sale: 11 a.m. - 5 p.m.; Vail Public Library


Pancake Breakfast: Open to the Public - 8 a.m. - 9 a.m.; Vail Interfaith Chapel

Vail Public Library Bake Sale: 8 a.m. - 12 p.m.; Vail Public Library

Vail Lacrosse Shootout: 8 a.m. - 5 p.m.; Ford Park, Vail Athletic Field; Vail Mountain School

Interfaith Worship Service: 9 a.m. - 10 a.m.; Vail Interfaith Chapel

Vail Public Library Book Sale: 9 a.m. - 4 p.m.; Vail Public Library

Vail America Days Parade: 10 a.m. - 12 p.m.; Golden Peak to Lionshead

Bravo! Vail: Dallas Symphony Orchestra Patriotic Concert: 2 p.m.; Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater

Fireworks: Dusk (Conditions Permitting); Golden Peak

*Schedule is subject to change, check for current details.

The Fourth of July is one of Vail’s largest events — and with about 65 entries in the Vail America Days parade and 25,000 to 40,000 people lining the streets of Vail, it’s hard to ignore.

When the parade started in the early 1970s, it was much smaller. The route spanned from Wild Bill’s Emporium in the center of Vail, wrapping the corner of Gore Creek Drive and around The Red Lion. It ended around the Mill Creek Court Building, going just a little beyond. With only seven or eight entries, the procession was so small that it had to complete the circuit twice to stretch out its time.

Since then, the parade has grown significantly, with audience members actually pushing the length of the parade route farther, simply by seating themselves closer to the staging area than originally intended. The route now runs from Golden Peak to Lionshead Village throughout the course of two hours, with announcers in Solaris Plaza and at the entrance to Lionshead Village.

Highline Sports and Entertainment took over the parade in 2012, and since then there has been more diversification of the acts and entries in the parade. But Highline isn’t opposed to bringing back a little tradition.

This year, Bill and Sally Hanlon, owners of Wild Bill’s Emporium, will serve as the grand marshals of the parade. The two have been heavily involved in the parade since the early 1970s, kick-starting the parade itself.

Participate in The Longevity Project

The Longevity Project is an annual campaign to help educate readers about what it takes to live a long, fulfilling life in our valley. This year Kevin shares his story of hope and celebration of life with his presentation Cracked, Not Broken as we explore the critical and relevant topic of mental health.

“(The Fourth) probably means that Vail, like America, should be rooting for the same thing: independence, freedom and our desire to make great things happen,” Bill Hanlon said.

The Hanlons have been frequent participants and heavy influencers on the parade’s development, even winning best entry several years.

“We loved watching our small-town event become the preeminent parade in Colorado, and from seeing it start to winning it and now leading it, participating in the parade is our biggest honor,” Bill Hanlon said.

Look out for lawn chairs

Of the 65 participants in the parade, there will be many familiar faces.

The Vail Precision Lawn Chair Demonstration Team will make their usual appearance at the parade, featuring many of the original members of the team, as well as many of their sons. The addition of members’ children started with Gary Pesso’s son, Oliver, who picked up his first (miniature) chair at 2 years old for a show in Denver, more than 10 years ago. Now the team is one of the most popular entries in the parade.

“We’ve been at this for a very long time,” Gary Pesso said. “We like people to join in and share in our excitement as we come down the street.”

The team made its debut at the Fourth of the July parade in 1984, and members have a slew of stories — including performances at NBA halftime shows and presidential inauguration ceremonies.

“It’s a lot of fun to do, and the crowd, especially the July Fourth crowd here in town, they go nuts every year. And that’s why we’re almost always at the back,” member Richard Carnes said. “The best response from the crowd — just sheer adulation, I mean that’s what we get.”

Those looking to join the team should apply with caution.

“The application process is very difficult,” Pesso said. “I’m not gonna say that there’s a lot of drinking that goes on, but there is definitely some hazing. Many apply and few survive.”

Other parade staples

Also returning to the parade is the Gallegos Corp., which has participated in the parade for 22 years. Gallegos has taken to the theme of the parade, “America the Beautiful.” Looking to the song’s lyrics, “From purple mountain majesties … from sea to shining sea,” for inspiration, the float features a “working waterfall, flowing down a rocky mountain down to a shining sea,” marketing associate Courtney Armitage said. The float was built by Gallegos employees Fernando Castillo, Kenny Fairchild and Daniel Alvarado, and it was decorated by the Wolcott office.

Gallegos Corp. also makes the awards for the parade, which adds a little friendly competition to the parade. This year’s awards are made out of Colorado Buff Sandstone with a Bronzo base and are designed by Mike Hawley, Dennis Hawley and Kris Kortuem. The categories for these awards are Youth, Marching/Musical, Motorized, Float Mechanical, Most Original, Best in Show and Gallegos Most Distinctive, which goes to the entry that most embraces a sense of community.

The Alpine Arts Center holds a summer camp specifically for the parade — the Fourth of July Parade Float Extravaganza — which utilizes the creative energy of about 40 to 50 kids to create a float. In the Arts Center’s seventh year in the parade, it is already a multi-year award winner.

“The kids will be coming up with the concepts for it,” owner Lauren Merill said. “They love it, and they have a good time. It’s a very messy camp week. We’re doing much larger scale projects than we normally do.”

New to the route

Despite all of the returnees, there will still be some newcomers to the parade, including the Special Olympics Dream Team. In their first parade appearance, coach John Wolnik sees the parade as an opportunity for the team to get “their feet wet.” The athletes will be wearing their medals, and Wolnik’s vehicle will be decorated to show the team’s patriotic spirit.

“It’s not so much an official Special Olympian meet — it’s just a bunch of friends getting together to show off our team and get our friends out there. It’s going to be cool,” Wolnik said.

With some new faces to match the old ones at the Vail America Days Parade, the Fourth of July in Vail continues to be a huge community event.

Lindsay Bribiescas is interning at the Vail Daily this summer. She is currently attending college at UCLA and calls Santa Rosa, California, home. Contact her at

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