Scenes from the 2018 Mill Valley Memorial Day Parade. Photos by Jim Welte.

​The biggest weekend in Mill Valley is almost here.

Starting May 24 with the four-day Kiddo! Carnival, the weekend kicks into high gear on May 27 with the Mill Valley Volunteer Firefighters’ Association’s Pancake Breakfast from 7-11am, followed by a ceremony at 9:30am at Lytton Square, the tree-laden island that splits the road between Miller and Corte Madera avenues into two and is named for Lytton Barber, Mill Valley’s first WWI casualty.

The ceremony honors soldiers from Mill Valley who died during war, and is followed by the Mill Valley Memorial Day Parade, which begins at 10:30am at Old Mill School, runs down Throckmorton Ave., right on Miller Ave. and ends just before Tam High near Camino Alto.

“It’s about teaching our children to remember and honoring the sacrifice’s made by our friends, sons, daughters, fathers and mothers what they gave, so we could be free,” parade organizer Larry “the Hat” Lautzker says. “Our intention this year is very simple: let’s all play with our friends, neighbors and fellow merchants. Break out the Red White and Blue, build wondrous floats, great window displays and show our kids and country how creativity and working together help to create amazing results.”

The Mill Valley Memorial Day Parade was first produced in 1980. It was organized by Paul Moe of Brocket Construction, who still handles staging for the parade’s current iteration. The “I Love a Parade Committee” was formed in 1992 by Joe Leis, followed by local architect Billy Budd and assisted by Lautzker, who has been the head of the committee since 2002. 

Lautzker says 1992 was the first year of dogs marching with more than 200 dogs of all sizes and breeds. “The Grand Marshall that first year was Clarence Clemons from Bruce Springsteen’s band, Celebrity Judges included Jerry Garcia, Mimi Farina and Joel Bartlett,” he says. “Rock Stars on Harley’s with portable amps playing our national anthem. All of this has continued and the parade has grown in size and public participation.”

Now there are more than 60 different entries in the parade each year and trophies are awarded for Best Car, Best Float, Best Dog, Best Music, Best Novelty, Best Business, Best Community Spirit and Best Overall.   

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