The strip of Main Street between Commercial Street and East Valley Street gets a holiday-themed makeover on the morning of July 4 as the annual parade kicks off and turns the normally busy Highway 101 into a red, white and blue extravaganza.
Community members and visitors from all over the county and beyond line the sidewalks of historic downtown Willits to watch the glitter, horses, dancers, floats, balloons, gunfighters, bands, flags, tractors — and usually a surprise or two — march down Main Street.
Several entrants have made the parade an annual or generational tradition for their families – some riding since they were just little buckaroos including members of the Standley, Persico and many other families.
Annual favorites include the winning and runner-up Willits Frontier Days Sweetheart contestants, the current Grand Marshall and Heritage Award Winners, Roots of Motive Power antique logging equipment, Willits Horsemen’s Association, Willits Police Department, Little Lake and Brooktrails Fire Departments, Cal Fire & CDF as well as many other emergency personnel – with sirens and lights blazing, of course.
The announcer’s stand, located at the corner of East Mendocino Avenue and Main Street introduces each entry and provides information on each group or individual participant. It also serves as the stage for the winner of the National Anthem contest to sing at the opening of the parade.
Though many stake out seats in the coveted shady locations in the early hours of the morning, the parade starts at 11 a.m. and is free to attend.