Vail’s busiest day of the year doesn’t disappoint
July 4, 2016
VAIL — The town's annual Independence Day parade started and ended with two things for which America is known around the world: Harley Davidsons and clean streets.
In between, guests heard and saw war veterans, dogs, kids, musicians, dancers, cross dressers, stilt walkers and many other oddities that can only be brought together under a flag of freedom.
An estimated 40,000 lined the streets of Vail on what has come to be the town's busiest day of the year on Monday. Nearly 1,000 cars spilled onto the frontage roads after the town's parking structures filled.
Leading off the Independence Day parade known as Vail America Days were motorcyclists Alex Holdstock and Niko Warhus. When the engines of their bikes roared, 8-year-old Truman Conner of Minneapolis covered his ears.
"They put us up front so we don't scare the animals," Holdstock said.
Holdstock's Harley is a celebration of another theme for which America is known around the world, the writing of Edgar Allen Poe. The tank and fenders contain verses from "The Raven," painted on in artistic tribute.
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"I call her 'Poetry in Motion,'" Holdstock said of the motorcycle.
It was Holdstock's third Vail America Days parade; she plans to continue participating every year that she can. Alongside her, Warhus – a former combat engineer with the Army – was riding in his first-ever parade.
"I just moved here from Maui two months ago," he said. "I think I'll say for the next 20 years or so."
DOGS ON PARADE
The animals to which Holdstock was referring included the Canine Companions float, complete with a gigantic, inflatable dog that could bow its head as if taking a drink of water. The Vail Mountaineer Hockey Club also brought along for the ride their dog "Rugby" — an English Golden Retriever whose white hair was spray painted with red and blue for full effect.
Highlands Ranch resident Dalton Moir, 13, donned a hairstyle so American it's actually native American — The Mohawk. He also had his hair died red and blue.
One dog who wasn't part of the parade this year was the Precision Lawn Chair Demo Team's "Honor Chairs" recipient. An annual tradition, the Precision Lawn Chair Demo Team – which has performed at the White House, among other illustrious locations – forms an Honor Chairs aisle for a dog to walk through, their lawn chairs comprising the aisle's ceiling. When Bennett Atencio, then 15, was bit by a dog during last year's Honor Chairs demonstration, the group switched from picking dog to picking a person from the crowd.
"A good looking person," said longtime demo team member Gary Pesso.
This year, 20-year-old Karla Lopez, visiting from Puerto Rico, was selected for the Honor Chairs walk.
'SUPPORT USA, PUSH THE JEEP'
Crowds cheered on members of The Greatest Generation during the parade; Bernard Gottlieb, Sandy Treat and 95-year-old Herb Rubenstein were joined by several other World War II vets.
Driving a 1946 Jeep CJ-2 Willys, Tim Belber honored Battle Mountain graduate John Shaw Vaughan, a lieutenant with the Army who was killed in Iraq in 2006. Vaughan built the Jeep in 2000 before heading to Iraq, his mother Sarah Vaughan has maintained it since then.
"Last year it made it through the whole parade," she said.
This year, that wasn't the case. Onlookers, in true American spirit, were asked to lend a helping hand when the Jeep's engine sputtered and died during the parade procession.
"They were saying 'Support your country, push the Jeep,'" Sarah Vaughan said with a laugh. "I'll get it fixed and we'll have it running again for next year."
The parade ended as it always does, with the Town of Vail's street sweeping crew cleaning up the parade lane.
Vail America Days continues through July 10; Tuesday's schedule includes a free concert from Karl Densen's Tiny Universe starting at 6:30 p.m. at the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater, and a free show from bluegrass performer Darrell Scott will take place starting at 6 p.m. Wednesday in Lionshead. For a complete schedule, visit vailamericadays.com.