FREMONT -- On the holiday when patriotism swells, the Fremont Fourth of July Parade's signature balloons will rise again this year.
Parade organizers hope their fundraising efforts soon will enjoy a similar rebound, with a little help from city officials.
The helium balloons -- some standing dozens of feet high, drawing the most oohs and ahhs from parade goers -- are returning to this year's event, said Ray Pulver, the San Jose-based producer of the Fremont parade. The popular attractions were missing last year from parades nationwide because of a global helium shortage.
The problem -- caused by low natural gas prices and helium production issues at several industrial plants from Wyoming to Algeria -- got so bad that even local party stores couldn't sell balloons for birthdays. A year later, most of those problems are gone and the shortage is over, Pulver said.
"We have helium, and the balloons will be back," he said. "Knock on wood, we're doing well with that this year."
That means that an expected crowd of about 15,000 people will be treated to a 40-foot-high balloon of a cartoon Uncle Sam, as well as a 25-foot-high version of a huge American flag, Pulver said. Those are two of nearly 80 entries expected in the annual parade, which will featuring community marching bands playing John Philip Sousa and other stars-and-stripes-themed songs. The parade also will include floats featuring East Bay businesses and politicians, such as state Senate Majority Leader Ellen M. Corbett, D-San Leandro, as well as youth groups, such as the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts.
Fremont, the Bay Area's fourth-largest city, has a diverse population of 217,000 people and an Asian majority. "The parade is as diverse as the city," said Jesse Schaa, president of the Fremont Fourth of July Parade Committee, a nonprofit group that organizes the annual event. "It's a free, fun, family tradition where we can celebrate the United States' birthday and our freedom."
The parade's budget, totaling $45,000 this year, is fully funded by private donations, and Schaa praised Mayor Bill Harrison, Councilwoman Sue Chan and other Fremont council members with landing sponsors to offset its costs.
About 25 percent of the budget went to paying city permits and parade committee members say they hope that Fremont's improving budget situation means they can waive those fees, starting next year.
Harrison said the city is "not in a position to fund the parade," but added that Fremont contributes by providing about $6,000 worth of expenses that it doesn't bill organizers.
Because the all-volunteer group works hard to make it "truly a community event," the mayor said he is glad to help find sponsors.
Contact Chris De Benedetti at 510-353-7011. Follow him at Twitter.com/cdebenedetti.
The parade begins at 10 a.m. July 4 at the corner of State Street and Capitol Avenue. The route will head east on Capitol Avenue, followed by right turns on Paseo Padre Parkway, Walnut Avenue and Liberty Street, and a left on Beacon Avenue. It then will end at the corner of State Street and Beacon Avenue.