This article appears in July/August 2015 Omaha Home.
If you’re looking to experience a small-town parade in the middle of Omaha, look no further. This summer marks the 65th annual J.E. George Boulevard Fourth of July Parade. The parade was founded in 1950 by residents Bob and Lu Adwers.
Children don festive costumes in the Americana theme, dress up their dogs, and grab wagons, tricycles, and other forms of transportation for a joyous display of patriotic pride.
J.E. George Boulevard is a stately, tree-lined thoroughfare just north of Memorial Park. It gets its namesake from early Omaha real estate developer John Edward George. According to the Douglas County Historical Society, he was a member of the city planning commission who played a big role in the St. Mary’s Avenue grading project.
League of Women Voters of Greater Omaha President Peggy Adair participated in the parade for her first time last year. “I’m from west Omaha and I love this. It’s like old home. It just makes you smile to be here,” she says.
Many local politicians also join in the fun by marching in the parade wearing brightly colored campaign slogan tees and passing out stickers.
Each year there is a grand marshal and special guests invited. Past grand marshals have included longtime J.E. George Boulevard resident Barbara Raffensperger and Godfather’s Pizza founder Willy Thiesen. Past special guests included TV personalities Bill Randby and Gary Kerr, and radio personality Tom Becka. The J.E. George Navy Band has also been a popular attraction of the parade since the 1980s.
Each year Sandy Wray of Elkhorn attends the parade with her sister, Terry Price. Price is a J.E. George Boulevard resident who is active in the community and serves as the Neighborhood Watch point person. “I think it’s just great that we honor our country,” Wray says.
“It’s a good way, I think, for the kids to learn some traditions about our country and keep that alive instead of thinking it’s just a way for them to party.”
The parade begins to assemble at 9:30 a.m. at the corner of J.E. George Boulevard and Western Avenue. The parade begins at 10 a.m. and moves south down J.E. George Boulevard, ending with a celebration at Memorial Park. Prizes are awarded at the baseball diamond for best costumes and floats.
Joe Pepitone of Bloom Companion Care has been emceeing the parade for more than five years. “All of the kids have a great time. It’s really important that they get a chance to showcase their hard work, putting together their floats and their costumes, and get a prize,” Pepitone says.
“It’s really all about the kids,” he reflects.