The first time I saw the Lake Highlands Fourth of July parade was in the sweltering summer of 1978. I remember the blazing heat for two reasons: I was getting married in three days, and I was amazed to witness a very beet-faced, eight-year-old boy bounce on a pogo stick for the entire parade route without faltering.
That grit won him a prize, which was nice since the Fourth of July also is his birthday. And even today, Jamie Patterson, now a law student at the University of Texas, laughs at the memory.
By now, I’ve pushed my own children in strollers clutching flags and pulled them in a red wagon disguised as a very small float. They have decorated trikes, scooters and two-wheelers, and last year, one of them ran the course carrying an aluminum foil torch for the United States Olympic team.
Our parade history is a bit hazy in the collective memory of longtime residents. But everyone agrees Jo and Sam Alton played a role.
Jo Alton loves the Fourth of July. When their daughters were little, Jo and Sam made a big day of it. They would take the girls to White Rock Lake at 5 a.m. to watch the sunrise, followed by a lakeside breakfast with neighbors.
A day of swimming would end with a barbecue supper and lots of ice cream. The only thing missing was a parade.
By 1968, the family lived in Lake Highlands, and their oldest daughter had joined the band at the junior high school. The family persuaded band members to join a neighborhood parade in a short march up Ferndale Road to Estate Lane and down Robin Hill, ending with lemonade and prizes.
“We always said the pledge and sang the national anthem,” Jo says. “One year, we had some former POWs. Another year, we had a German guest who couldn’t believe we made such a big deal out of the Fourth of July.”
When Sam died in the early 1970s, Sally and Ben Houston took over. Sally thought nothing of having several hundred people over to her backyard for a potluck brunch after the parade. She would send her children out with five hundred fliers to remind neighbors. Area stores donated treats for all the kids in the parade.
“We had people like Dallas City Manager George Schrader, Mr. Peppermint, and Jerry Tubbs, a coach for the Dallas Cowboys, as judges,” Sally says.
“One year, Bob Cummings, the actor, was in town doing a dinner theater show and heard about the parade. He thought it was great and invited my husband and me to a free show and to have our picture taken with him.”
In 1979, the parade moved to the Lake Highlands North Recreation Center. Participation dwindled, and without City funds to support it, the event faltered. The Exchange Club of Lake Highlands rallied to help, and now members help plan the parade, serve as judges and run a food booth.
The energetic agents at RE/MAX Associates of Dallas run the carnival games and booths after the parade. They also rent a petting zoo, arrange for skydivers and a hot-air balloon.
The rec center staff and advisory board work hard to coordinate everything and supervise the post-parade free swim.
“It’s a neat event with casual, homemade fun; just another example of the small town flavor of Lake Highlands,” says RE/MAX broker Missy Vanderbilt.
She’s right, thanks to all of you who have led the parade for us.