Floats, clowns, dancers, a marching band and the Astoria Regatta princesses paraded through downtown on Saturday for the Regatta’s annual Grand Land Parade.
The parade has been a feature of the Regatta since the event began in 1894. It’s the oldest and biggest parade west of the Rockies, according to the Regatta’s organizers.
Some in the community have been attending the parade for years. Bill Landwehr and Jim Robinson, members of the Astoria Clowns, estimate they have been performing in the parade as clowns for around 15 years.
“I do it to make kids smile,” Landwehr said. “It’s for the kids.”
For Will Chapman, another member of the Astoria Clowns, the parade is a family affair. His dad was a longtime Astoria Clown and wore the same costume he wears now. His mom walked ahead of him in the parade in the LGBT Pride group. And, as a longtime Astorian, he saw several old friends along the way.
“I gave my middle school teacher candy,” Chapman said. “He said thanks for the candy. I said thanks for the math.”
Visitors look forward to the annual parade, as well. Sue McMahan, a Beaverton resident and member of The Beat Goes On marching band, said she likes the parade especially because of the Bowpicker food truck. She and her friends always get fish and chips after the parade, which they’ve been performing in for the last five years.
New features to the parade included a new float from Columbia Memorial Hospital, according to Julie Flues, Regatta president. Memorable floats included the Columbia River Bar Pilots’ entry, an antique bar pilot rowboat from 1947, pulled by a truck.
Dan Jordan, a bar pilot in Astoria, found the boat on Craigslist two years ago. It had been taken from a burn pile and renovated by a man in California. Now, in its second year at the parade, the boat carried children of local bar pilots.
Jordan estimates it might be one of the only antique bar pilot rowboats left in existence. Another rowboat of the same kind is featured in the Columbia River Maritime Museum.
“It’s nice to bring a piece of history back to Astoria,” he said.