PIEDMONT -- Scores of jubilant Piedmonters lined the streets to salute Uncle Sam, mingle with their neighbors and view the myriad floats in the 48th annual Fourth of July Parade.
Piedmont Boy Scouts formed the color guard at the head of the lively parade that wound slowly down Highland Avenue to Piedmont Community Park where the festivities continued with hot dogs and hot music.
"The Fourth of July Parade is one of the many great community events and traditions in Piedmont that brings together friends and neighbors, honoring our community and nation," said Mayor John Chiang, who rode in a 1930s vintage car at the head of the parade that included many city dignitaries -- as well as nonagenarians Anita Cabrera and Peggy Reich, who rode in a classic Ford Mustang. "This year is no different, and this year's theme, 'Small Town, Big Heart,' says it all. We live in a great community of volunteers with big hearts all generously giving of their talents to support our great city and schools."
Excited kids had a field day, scrambling to gather up handfuls of candies thrown from the passing parade of old roadsters, while volunteers from the SPCA handed out lollipops and Dress for Less gave away a truckload of stuffed animals.
"I like the bands playing and the candies they're throwing," said 5-year-old Alina Gurney of Piedmont.
In keeping with a tradition that dates back to 1932 when the Kiltie Band was formed at Piedmont High School, the 2013 parade featured three Scottish bagpipe bands, as well as the sounds of "Dixie" and the city's own Community Band.
This year's Parade Grand Marshal was Brooke Zimmerman, former school counselor, assistant principal at Piedmont Middle School and director of student services.
"She is a fabulous person to be named Grand Marshal," said Carla Betts, chairperson of the parade. "She has done so much good for so many kids in Piedmont."
A huge crowd pleaser was the Balloon Platoon, which sashayed up Highland Avenue under the direction of longtime commandore Hal Strunk, twirling long-handled mops over their shoulders.
"These gentlemen are mostly in the 70s and 80s," said Sigrie Potter, whose son and husband are in the platoon. "They've performed all over the world, but Piedmont is their favorite parade."
"I think the Balloon Platoon is really fun," said 12-year-old Alex Felger, who came all the way from Danville with her family to join in Piedmont's festivities. "I like that it's not just floats but also people walking and you can enter your own float if you want. It's really unique to me."
One of those unique entrants included a makeshift 3-D float depicting the Dracena Avenue neighborhood made out of cardboard box houses and trees.
Another out-of-towner was 10-year-old Steven Hayes from Costa Rica.
"This is my first time at a Fourth of July parade," said Hayes, who was visiting family in the area. "I really like seeing the old cars."
Other crowd winners were the animal entrants, including In Their Element Dog Walkers who were accompanied, of course, by their canine companions, all decked out for the Fourth of July. The California Pinto Rangers rode in on four Tobiano Paint horses with gleaming sterling silver saddles.
David Leahy, a 30-year resident of Piedmont who retired to live in Montclair, said his children never watched the parade -- they were always in it.
"There's something very special about the Piedmont parade," said Leahy, who set up a chair at a nice spot on the parade route. "There's a wonderful spirit and it's a great time to see old friends."
Ellen Garrett, a 26-year Piedmont resident and a fourth-grade teacher at Beach Elementary School, agreed.
"I love this parade," said Garrett, who never misses a year. "A lot of my students take part -- it's pretty cute."
Vice Mayor Margaret Fujioka, whose family rode in a 1939 GM LaSalle, said this was her sixth straight year to ride in the parade.
"From kids to seniors and every age in between, it brings people together in a fun and engaging way to celebrate our country's independence," Fujioka said.