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THE SIERRA MADRE EARTHQUAKE : Parade Becomes City's Celebration of Survival


With most of Sierra Madre's 10,000 residents still ducking for cover whenever a truck rumbles past, it would seem unlikely that anybody in the little foothill town would be in much of a mood for the annual Fourth of July parade.

But parade planners are turning the event into a celebration of the town's getting through one of the most trying times in its 84-year history. Sierra Madre residents came through with only minor injuries from the quake, which some residents described as a particularly violent one.

"The timing is really absolutely perfect," said Doug Hayes, chairman of the Sierra Madre Fourth of July Parade Committee. "People will have had almost a week to recover and do their cleanup. Now they can come out and thank their lucky stars, then go back to work on Monday."

About seven miles from the epicenter of the 5.8 earthquake in the San Gabriel Mountains, Sierra Madre was one of the hardest hit communities. About 150 structures in the city's three square miles were damaged, at an estimated cost of $8.5 million.

The city's Fourth of July parade, which has been held for 26 years, is traditionally a tongue-in-cheek affair, and this year's will be no different, Hayes said.

Among the entries will be a "PT boat" from the so-called Sierra Madre Harbor Patrol, which operates about 25 miles from the nearest beach, and the marching band of the mythic Sierra Madre City College, whose 100 or so unrehearsed members are known for stirring renditions of the Mickey Mouse Club theme song.

The band has promised to make three appearances in the parade--by speeding in cars and vans from the finish line back to the starting line.

"This time of year it's so difficult to get marching bands," Hayes said. "So the Sierra Madre City College band said, hell, we'll march three times."

Organizers expect about 1,500 people, 15% of the city's population, to march in the almost two-hour parade. It begins at 10 a.m. today at the intersection of Sunnyside Avenue and Sierra Madre Boulevard, and heads east on Sierra Madre to Sierra Vista Park.

After the parade, a Dixieland band will play for picnickers in Memorial Park from noon to 5:30 p.m.

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