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  • Kristi Hawthorne

A History of the Oceanside Independence Parade

Photos by Road West Photogaphy. Historical photos courtesy of Oceanside Historical Society.

A beloved Oceanside tradition since the late 1880s continues on June 25, honoring all of the essential workers that kept us going strong during the pandemic.

For over 130 years, Oceanside has celebrated the nation's Independence Day with a parade. Even in the parade's earliest years, residents and visitors lined the streets and flag-draped storefronts to get a glimpse of the band and parade participants.

One of the first organized parades for Independence Day was in 1889. Oceanside made arrangements for train excursions to bring visitors to enjoy the day and all the festivities. This day of celebration included a "National Salute of 100 Guns" along with games and performances that were listed in the South Oceanside Diamond: "Cowboy races, laughable sack races, climbing the liberty pole, barrel, hurdle and potato races, along with Ancient Games of Chivalry." The parade itself was advertised as a "Colossal Callithumpian Parade" (which is a band of inharmonious instruments or simply a noisy parade.) The day ended with fireworks at the beach.

For many years after the Fourth of July Parade concluded, festivities continued with horse racing, barbecue and dancing.

In 1910 the local newspaper reported that the Escondido train brought 550 people to watch the Independence Day parade. Crowds totaled 2,000 at a time when Oceanside had just over 600 residents. In 1939 it was estimated that 15,000 spectators lined the streets of Oceanside to observe the parade, an amount that was triple the local population.

One of the highlights of the procession in the 1940s and '50s was Bill Lawrence's stagecoach, and later Jim Sullivan was known for his antique cars, including a steam engine and even a calliope.

In the 1950s, the larger parade often concluded with a children's pet parade. For many years the parade floats would make their way down to the Pier Amphitheater for a day-long celebration as crowds settled in for picnics and later fireworks from the Oceanside Pier.

The parade route changed over the years, at times traveling on North Cleveland Street, or beginning at the train depot heading east up Mission Avenue. Some years parades traveled west on Mission Avenue. At one time the parade route was two miles long, stretching from Oceanside Boulevard to Sixth Street (now Sportfisher Drive). Today the route of the Oceanside Independence Parade starts at Wisconsin Avenue and travels north on Coast Highway to Civic Center Drive.

Oceanside's parade is a beloved tradition, still lining the streets with residents and visitors alike and a time to wave Old Glory when the bands pass by.

For more information about the 26th Annual Oceanside Independence Parade, go to or call MainStreet Oceanside at 760-754-4512.


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