The 4th of July is America’s birthday and many communities have parades to celebrate that fact. The freedom to determine our own future was at the center of the founding of our country. The “World’s Shortest Parade” in Aptos is also about self-determination but it was not originally about America’s birthday.
The Granite Rock Company, founded in 1900, has been an important part of the history of Santa Cruz County. The great construction boom in houses and highways in the late 1950s and ‘60s meant that Granite had to build new cement batching plants to supply the need for concrete throughout the region. Cement, sand, and aggregate are stored at the batching plant and mixed to order, then sent out in giant “cement mixer” trucks to the construction sites.
In 1959, the last remnants of the apple industry in Aptos Village closed down. Aptos was an industrial town with no industry. The Granite Rock Company purchased land in the Village and applied to the county for a zoning change to build a cement batching plant. That is why the street across from the Post Office is named Granite Way.
There is nothing wrong with a concrete plant but no one in Aptos Village wanted it in their back yard. Locals rose up against the proposal. Concerned women formed the “Aptos Ladies Tuesday Evening Society” and organized themselves to defeat the zoning change. The group included Lucille Aldrich, Anne Isaacs, Babe Toney, Peggy Marceron, Jessie Elliott, Birdie Jacobs, Beverly Palmer, Nola Gales, Pat Thompson, Joyce West, Peggy Hunter, Mrs. Harrison Smith, Dee Small, Betty Jo Jensen, and Nita Jellison.
Their efforts were successful. To celebrate their victory, a barbecue was held on Memorial Day, 1961, in the field next to the railroad track. The event was so popular that a parade and potluck were planned to follow on the fourth of July.
Everyone turned out in old fashioned clothes and the Monterey Bay Antique Car Club brought 18 vintage cars. The parade route was from the Driftwood Gas Station at Trout Gulch Road (where Bay Federal Credit Union is now located) to the Pop Inn restaurant, (now the Parish Publick House). The parade only lasted ten minutes and that is how the “World’s Shortest Parade” got its name.
The second year, the “Sun Tan Special”, the train that once transported visitors from the San Francisco Peninsula to Santa Cruz, was in its final year of service. The Aptos Ladies had planted red, white and blue petunias along the railroad track from the Bay View Hotel to the Pop Inn. When the train reached Aptos on July 4th, the engineer stopped the train so that the passengers could get off and enjoy the festivities. “It was a happy coincidence that the parade coincided with the train passing through”, recalled Lucile Aldrich.
Games were also held in the field including sack races, a watermelon eating contest, horseshoes, kick the can, peanut runs, shoe kicking, and foot races.
The third year, the American Legion post was the first to set up a food booth with chili, coffee and pies. The following year, the Pop Inn offered hot dogs and soft drinks. Santa Cruz Dairy Farms wanted to sell ice cream, so Lucile asked them to bring a cow for a milking contest. They brought two cows for five or six years but eventually the herd was moved away which ended the contest. In the mid-1970s the games and food booths were moved to Aptos Village Park which had just been completed.
The pancake breakfast was added in 1987, as a cooperative venture between the Aptos Chamber of Commerce and the Aptos Lions Club and is currently organized by the Chamber and the Search and Rescue Team.
In 1992, after thirty years of successful parade organization, the Aptos Ladies Tuesday Evening Society retired from the job and turned the parade over to the Aptos Chamber of Commerce. The once tiny parade has grown into a huge event for Aptos. The “World’s Shortest Parade” has gained national recognition as one of only seven Fourth of July parades recommended in 2013 as the “Best” by prestigious Condé Nast Traveler, and in 2017, our parade was listed as one of “America’s Most Unique July Fourth Celebrations” by Land’s End Journal.
This year’s Grand Marshal is Fire Captain Greg Hansen who will be retiring from the Aptos/La Selva Fire District after almost 39 years of service. Among the many recognitions that Greg has received is California’s Emergency Services Officer of the Year for creating “Captain H2O the fire clown” in order to spread fire safe messages in local schools. He was also awarded was awarded Firefighter of the Year for pulling a victim away from live power lines, thereby saving the victim’s life. We would like to recognize Captain Hansen’s dedication to the department and the community.
What better way to celebrate Independence Day than having a “stick-to-your-ribs” pancake breakfast, and then, either watch the parade or be in it, and finally to have lunch and dance the afternoon away, with the band “Extra Large” in Aptos Village Park? You can celebrate freedom from cooking and doing the dishes, you will have a great day and also help to support the parade that gives Aptos a little slice of fame and a big slice of “home town” feeling. Happy Independence Day!