Truckee tradition: After 35 years, Bill Palmer to make grand finale with Truckee River Drill Team |

Truckee tradition: After 35 years, Bill Palmer to make grand finale with Truckee River Drill Team

For the past 35 years, Bill Palmer (red shirt) has led the Truckee River Drill Team at Truckee's annual Fourth of July parade.
Courtesy photo |

Don’t forget!

For this year’s Truckee Hometown Parade, the town of Truckee is offering a free shuttle to and from the parade on Monday, July 4. The town partnered with Northstar California and Truckee North Tahoe Transportation Management Association for the service.

The free shuttles will travel to and from downtown Truckee between 8 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. to the following destinations: Tahoe Donner, Donner Lake, Sierra Meadows, Brockway, Prosser and Glenshire.

Visit for schedules and additional information.

TRUCKEE, Calif. — Back in 1980, Truckee resident Bill Palmer, then owner of Truckee’s first sporting goods store, Sun ’n Snow, had a witty idea for the Fourth of July parade.

“I came up with this idea to do a drill team using our rental skis as a rifle and stuff,” Palmer said. “Just something different to do, and I thought it’d be kind of a fun thing to do.”

With that, Palmer pooled together friends and entered “The Truckee River Drill Team” into the annual Truckee Hometown Parade.

With noses swiped white with zinc oxide, Palmer and his friends sported Hawaiian shirts, shorts, winter boots and straw hats as they marched and moved in synchronized formations, shouldering and clutching rental skis as if they were rifles.

They were impossible to miss. And they were an instant — sidesplitting — hit.

So much so that 35 years later, the Truckee River Drill Team remains a staple — and crowd favorite — of the Truckee Hometown Parade.

“I never had the idea that we would do it for 30 some years,” said Palmer, a member of the Rotary Club of Truckee, which has helped with the drill team for years. “We get a lot of laughs, a lot of people hooting and hollering for us. We just have fun with it and make fools of ourselves, but it’s good fun.”

In the process, the Truckee River Drill Team has racked up a heap of first-place trophies for their routine — “almost every year we’ve won something,” Palmer said.

What’s more, Palmer and the Truckee River Drill Team have even entertained big crowds outside of Truckee — 2,000 miles outside, to be exact.

In 2005, Palmer and company, and all of their equipment, piled in an Amtrak bound for Chicago, Ill., where they performed at the Rotary International Conference parade.

“There were about 20 of us in the group and it was the experience of a lifetime,” said Sherilyn Laughlin, Rotary Club of Truckee and Truckee River Drill Team member. “We were one of about 100 teams in the parade down the Miracle Mile celebrating the 100th anniversary of Rotary.”

‘It’s been fun’

This year’s Fourth of July parade, however, will see Palmer making his grand finale with the Truckee River Drill Team.

Palmer and his wife, Nancy, are uprooting from Truckee and moving 420 miles southwest to Nipomo, Calif., to live near their children and grandkids.

“I got talked into doing one more parade,” said Bill Palmer, chuckling.

Truth is, the Palmers, all set for their move, are sticking in Truckee for the Fourth of July festivities before migrating to Nipomo two days later.

“I usually say, ‘We’ve done it enough,’” he continued. “But anytime I say that I’ve received so much flack; they say, ‘Oh, you guys can’t quit!’

“I’m actually amazed how much people still like it.”

Lynn Saunders, president/CEO of the Truckee Donner Chamber of Commerce, is not surprised at all by the uproarious reaction Palmer’s drill team triggers year after year.

“No matter how many times people have seen them, they look forward to it every year and always laugh, smile and love watching them,” Saunders said. “Bill has been a committed, dedicated pillar of this community and has built a legacy that he can be extremely proud of — creating memories for parade attendees for over 30 years.”

With the Truckee Hometown Parade right around the corner, Palmer is focused on creating memories for the Truckee community one more time before departing his beloved mountain town.

“I think it’s a great small town parade,” said Palmer, adding that he hopes the Truckee River Drill Team continues after this year. “I think they will and I hope they do. It’s been a big part of the parade.

“It’s been fun — I’ll miss it.”

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