A Penngrove tradition
The Biggest Little Parade, party in park happen Sunday
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By Kaydon Coburn  July 5, 2013 12:00 am

Long on community tradition and short in distance, the 38th annual Biggest Little Parade takes place this Sunday in downtown Penngrove.

“I love to see all the tractors, trucks and kids. Everything is on display. The fire department usually runs most of their equipment through with the sirens and lights going,” says Joe Reiter, Fourth of July Parade Chairman and former Penngrove Volunteer Fire Department president.

Started in 1975 by the Penngrove Volunteer Fire Department to honor the Bicentennial of the country, The Biggest Little Parade loops about one-third of a mile through the heart of Penngrove.

“Many people don't even know that Penngrove has a parade. I would just love to get the word out for everyone to come and enjoy the experience,” said Kim Hansen, parade organizer.

“The public should expect to see an old-fashioned, hometown event…full of fun, tractors, trucks, kids marching. It is so low-key and not commercial feeling…the farmers/ranchers get together and talk about the good old days,” Hansen said.

Hansen is now in her sixth year of being a parade organizer, coordinating the parade entrees, permits, and decorations.

The Penngrove Social Firemen organization has faithfully continued the annual summer tradition. The founder for the 

parade was Art Shepard, a Penngrove Social Firemen. According to Reiter, the parade “has pretty much stayed the same” in nature and intention over the years.

Adding to the “low-key” atmosphere, anyone who wants to be in the parade can just show up the morning of and register. Expect viewing plenty of tractors and horses, as well as small marching bands. Spectators can anticipate some parade entries to traditionally toss candy to the crowd. The grand marshal for this year's parade is Stella Sonnichsen.

Tim Baker will travel from Short Hills, N.J., to participate with his two sons for the fifth year in a row.

“When Charlie was five, he said he wanted to be in the parade and hand out candy to the kids. The next year we borrowed a little wagon, decorated it and made it happen,” Baker said. “We go watch the Macys Thanksgiving Parade (Manhattan)…the Penngrove Parade has funnier acts. Not just balloons and famous people,” Baker added.

“We have a marching crew that everyone really likes to watch,” Reiter says. The marchers’ leader comically directs the troupe and is misguided in a wheelchair for most of the parade. “At one stage he gets up and runs around!” Reiter laughed. 

Volunteers of the Penngrove Fire Department initiated the Penngrove Social Firemen community organization more than 50 years ago. The main goal of the Social Firemen is to support the community. While the Social Firemen are not active firemen and do not currently have a official connection to the fire department, the group of both men and women are presently numbering around 100 members. Open to the general public, members include carpenters, contractors, artists, attorneys, mechanics, truckers, ranchers, and painters, among many other professions according to the Penngrove Social Fireman’s website.

The parade is followed by activities and a barbeque in Penngrove Park. The park activities serve as the main fundraiser for maintaining the Penngrove Social Firemen's Community Clubhouse (formerly the Women’s Club) and the park. Inside the park, the public may enjoy free games, a super kids slide, barbequed chicken and beef, craft booths, music by Charlie Baker and desserts provided by the Penngrove 4-H Club.

The Old Fashion American Apple Pie Contest accepts entries the same day and are available from JavAmore, or just bring a pie to the park and complete the entry form.

The Penngrove Social Firemen provide financial support to Penngrove School, Penngrove 4H and the Future Farmers of America. Annually, the church and school anonymously provide food, presents and money to families in need. The Firemen group also host a yearly crab feed, St. Patrick’s Day cabbage feed, trucker’s ball, a luau party, a poker tournament, and most recently a car show.

The parade begins on Main Street at 11 a.m. No dogs or coolers can be admitted to the park. A pancake breakfast is also scheduled on Saturday from 7-11 a.m. at Ranch Adobe Fire Department.

For information about Biggest Little Parade or entries, contact Kim Hanson at JavAmore at (707) 794-1516. To register for a craft booth, contact Maria Wacker at (707) 795-9230.

“So many people volunteer their time to make this event happen. Let's give them a hand,” Hansen said.

Reiter enjoys the fact the community is involved in the event. “It brings us all together,” he said.

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