Keeping the parade afloat |

Keeping the parade afloat

Photo by Ryan Salm/Sierra SunPatti and Hartley Lesser show their patriotism at Truckee Variety Co. in downtown Truckee. The local couple has directed the Fourth of July parade in downtown Truckee for the past eight years.

A service to the community? A labor of love? A whole lot of work?

Call it what you will, but one thing’s for certain: Without Hartley and Patti Lesser, Truckee’s annual Fourth of July parade would mean a lot less to the 40,000 people who crowd the streets each year to witness what has become one of the biggest small-town parades anywhere.

Under the Lessers’ care for the past eight years, Truckee’s Fourth of July parade has become respected enough to attract entries from as far away as Snoqualmie, Wash., and as prestigious as the Wells Fargo stage coach and horse team, not to mention more than 50 other local groups, businesses and revelers who will march down Donner Pass Road this year.

But while Hartley and Patti Lesser have a pretty good handle on what needs to get done before the parade hits the street after eight years, their first year at the helm was a big jump for them.

“We started doing the parade when we had only lived here for three months, because somebody needed to do it,” Patti Lesser said. “So we stepped up and it was a great way to learn the community.”

It turned out to also be a great way for the community to get to know the Lessers, both of whom have become something of local celebrities – Hartley Lesser as the station manager at KTKE and Patti Lesser as events coordinator of For Goodness Sake, a nonprofit spiritual center in downtown Truckee.

But while Hartley and Patti Lesser have quickly become entwined in the fabric of Truckee’s community, it is still their work organizing the parade that serves as their way of giving back to the town.

“It always reminds me of when you go into labor and you say ‘This is it, never again,’ and the next thing you know, you’re back and you’re having another baby …” Patti Lesser said. “The parade is sort of like having the other baby, I guess.”

Her husband agreed. “I know that if we weren’t doing the parade and somebody else was doing it, we’d have to be involved to help them get the parade done,” he said. “So it’s easier just to do it ourselves.”

“We love the community and this is what we love to do to give back,” he said.

That annual gift has not been lost on those who understand how much work is involved in putting the parade together each year.

Ron Florian, who will serve as a parade judge for the ninth consecutive year, knows how much planning goes into the big day.

“It’s huge. From an organizational stand point, organizing which floats will go first and such, and then actually going out and contacting the people who want to be in the parade, it’s quite an undertaking. It takes months of preparation,” he said.

In fact, the Lessers start putting the parade together in April each year and work well past the end of the festivities as there is inevitably some extra cleanup that needs to be done when it’s all over.

As usual, Hartley and Patti Lesser are claiming that this will be their last year in charge ” an assertion many hope they can be convinced to rescind before next April. However, if their declaration holds true, at least they are going out with a bang.

Joining the Wells Fargo stage coach this year will two Celtic pipe bands, along with traditional favorites such as the Sierra West Bernese Mountain Dog Club, the Truckee River Drill Team, the Truckee Fire Department and the Sierra Mountainaires. In addition, a number of newcomers such as Raices Mexicanas Mexican folk dance group and the U.S. Snowboard Association ” which may bring as many as 100 members this year ” will join the procession.

In addition to the new organizations participating, the Lessers have added three new judges’ awards that will be handed out in the staging area before the parade gets underway this year, allowing the winners to show off their trophies along the parade route.

The Mayor’s Trophy will be presented to the group that best depicts life in Truckee, the Grand Marshal’s Trophy will be given for excellence in concept and design, and the Theme Trophy will be handed out for the best presentation of the parade’s theme of “Truckee – The Good Life.”

And while the number of people participating in the parade has continually grown over the years, so have the numbers watching from the sidelines.

“We have people from Philadelphia, San Diego, the Bay Area … who come to the parade now because they’ve seen it before and they’re coming back,” Hartley Lesser said. “They love this parade because it’s a real hometown parade, and everybody who participates has fun, the people watching it have fun and it’s just a great community effort … I don’t think you could ever find [a parade] like this anywhere else.”

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