Rollingwood’s Lively 4th of July Parade Brings Community Together

The usually serene streets of Rollingwood filled with thundering drums, patriotic decorations and candy-tossing local leaders in the mid-morning hours of 4th of July.

A thumping chorus of drums and samba dancers led the parade down Rollingwood Drive, followed by a caravan of classic cars, including a late 1960s black Chevy Corvette, a light blue Ford Thunderbird and a pristine Chevy Apache truck.

Rollingwood Mayor Barry Bone led a string of cars carrying local aldermen and former city officials. Then, a parade favorite: A big Westlake Fire Department fire engine. Parents snapped photos of their little ones as they darted out to pick up candy that paraders tossed from their floats and cars.

A Neighborhood Tradition

The Rollingwood Women’s Club has been organizing the neighborhood event for 35 years.

“A lot of these people have lived here for 30-plus years,” said Catherine Hanrahan, the chair of the 2014 parade. “We’ve seen each other’s kids grow up through the years.”

The Women’s Club sells $1 American flags that include a raffle ticket to their neighbors who line the streets for the parade. The money helps pay for park beautification projects, such as new signs and an educational garden.

“It helps maintain a sense of community,” Hanrahan said.

‘The Land of Stevie Ray Vaughn’

Robert Patterson, owner of the Austin Samba School, said he has led a troop of drummers and dancers along the parade route for 13 years. At first, he said, the crowds were a bit sparse.

“It’s getting better every year,” he said. “There’s getting to be more people on the streets.”

Patterson said his students aim to please the Independence Day crowds with a variety of rhythms and dance.

“Because we live in the land of Stevie Ray Vaughan, we throw in a lot of stuff,” he said. “Blues, funk, Brazilian, Samba and some folkloric music.”

The parade ended at Hatley Park where Patterson blew his whistle to get drummers and dancers in line to play a classic Samba rhythm. After a round of cheers for the tired out dancers, a few hundred people from the neighborhood grabbed free cakes from Nothing Bundt Cakes and free hotdogs supplied by nearby Trader Joe’s and Randalls. But the watermelon stole the show, as kids lined up to take a shot at winning the seed spitting contest before tossing water balloons and gyrating hula hoops.

It’s all part of the gathering that brings neighbors and local businesses together to kick off the holiday.

“It’s a lot of work doing it,” Mayor Barry Bone told the crowd before the contests started. “And I really enjoyed it this year.”