Filling neighborhood streets with kids on bicycles did not seem like a good idea during a pandemic, so the Garden Oaks and Shepherd Park Plaza communities scrapped plans for the parades they usually hold on the Fourth of July.
But COVID-19 is not keeping those neighborhoods from celebrating the 244th anniversary of the United States’ Declaration of Independence. And they will still do so with parades, albeit in different, more socially distant formats.
Both the Garden Oaks Civic Club and Shepherd Park Plaza Civic Club have organized vehicular parades for Saturday morning. Residents of each community are invited to join the procession of decorated cars and trucks, which will wind through neighborhood streets for other residents to enjoy from inside their homes or from their front yards or porches.
“It is the Fourth of July,” said Pamela Bell, who is organizing Garden Oaks’ parade along with her husband, Matthew. “We still wanted to be able to celebrate in some way as a neighborhood, but in a safer and distanced way.”
Bell and Romi Sandel, who is organizing the parade in Shepherd Park Plaza, both said their events are expected to last no more than about 30 minutes. The Shepherd Park Plaza parade, which also will go through Candlelight Plaza, will start at 8:30 a.m. at Durham Elementary School, 4803 Brinkman St.
Sandel said the parade will feature at least a few classic sports cars as well as golf carts, which participants are encouraged to decorate with American flags or red, white and blue banners. She said vehicles will start the parade by traveling north and west on Bethlehem Street before turning south on Brian Haven Drive, west on Thornton Road, south on Apollo Street, east on Curtin Street, north on Dunsmere Road, west on Thornton, north on Dunsmere, west on Cheshire Lane, north on Park Plaza Drive and east on Candlelight Lane before ending up back at the Durham campus.
“In the past, it’s always been more of a kids’ parade,” Sandel said. “Kids could ride their bikes and ended up at Shepherd Park, where we usually had a snow cone truck. Because of social distancing this year, we didn’t want a whole bunch of people on bikes and end up at the park.
“But we didn’t want to get rid of the history of having this parade,” she added. “That’s why we switched it up this year.”
Bell said the Garden Oaks Civic Club initially considered cancelling the parade altogether last week, when local officials urged citizens to stay home and apart from each other because of a recent spike in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. But the organizers settled on a vehicular parade because it provided a safer alternative.
As a result, the original parade route has been expanded. Bell said vehicles are asked to line up at 9:30 a.m. at the intersection of Brinkman Street and Wakefield Drive, where St. Rose of Lima Catholic Community is located.
The Garden Oaks parade will start at 10 a.m., with the Harris County Precinct 1 Constable’s Office leading the way. Bell said the route will start by going east on Wakefield before turning north on Sue Barnett Drive, west on West 41st Street until it turns into Apollo Street going north, then east on West 42nd Street, north on Sue Barnett, west on Lamonte Lane, south on Apollo, east on Gardenia Drive, south on Alba Road, west on 41st and northwest on Althea Drive until it reaches Ella Boulevard.
“I think it’ll be a nice way for the neighborhood to see something, just something organized to bring some fun spirit,” Bell said. “It’s always fun to see car decorated with American flags.”