Building Traditions…and Memories

When I think about my childhood, one of my fondest, most vivid memories is the 4th of July and the way Scripps Ranch comes together to celebrate. And growing up in the Loire Valley community makes those memories all the more special. The neighborhood’s annual festivities brought me closer to my friends and family.

Loire Valley entered its first float in the Scripps Ranch Civic Association’s (SRCA) 4th of July Parade in 1983. Ken Smith was the mastermind who thought it would be a good idea for the neighborhood to get involved. SRCA president and Loire Valley resident Bob Ilko took over in 2001. He bought his own jeep in order to put together a massive and wonderful float each year for the whole community to see. Right now, he is trying to get the “next generation” of families to eventually take over the building process.

Bob has seen the floats bring the neighborhood closer, especially the kids. “If you have a young boy or girl you can show them how to create things and how to work together,” Bob says. “They are bonding and teaching moments.”

I remember helping with it almost every year, whether it was taping something on the float or coming up with a costume to wear in the parade. As a child I took pride in knowing I helped produce something amazing. I still do. Even with everyone working together, it still takes around 80 hours each year to get it all done.

To put it in perspective this year’s float (below) was done quickly, in under a week. And after working on floats for 28 years, Bob says it’s hard to come up with an idea that has yet to be done. Sometimes Loire Valley follows the SRCA parade theme and sometimes it deviates. “We’ve got to come up with something we can build around, and then get the kids and parents to walk behind the float,” Bob said. “So it’s also got to be something you can dress up for that gets people excited.”

The memories of past floats will not soon be forgotten. When Ken Smith retired from float building, he was gifted a scrapbook filled with photos of his floats. The idea to add photos every year stuck, and now Loire Valley is on its fifth book! It has become a great way for everyone to understand the impact the float building has, especially for new residents in the neighborhood. As Loire Valley began its annual tradition of float building, more events surrounding the holiday emerged.

Growing up, I would ride in the annual Bike “Parace”—a decorated bike parade that turns into a race. The day would end with an outdoor movie. Swimming pool games were always, always, played on the 4th, and then everyone would meet in the green belt for a barbecue before going to watch the fireworks together. These traditions are some of my favorite memories growing up.

For Bob, he hopes the traditions keep getting passed down for future generations to enjoy. “We want our kids to have this for their kids, and maybe they move to Texas or anywhere else, and if there’s a parade maybe they get their family and friends to try to do something,” Bob said. “It’s to create a tradition.”

He also wishes other neighborhoods would join in on their own float building, and eventually start creating their own traditions. He believes the first Loire Valley float was cardboard robots. The neighborhood did not start with much, but it was something. “Every year you build on to it and more people will get behind it and make it fun,” Bob said. “I’m here to invite people over, look at the scrapbooks, and talk about how they can compete.”

It’s difficult to picture a 4th of July without all the yearly Loire Valley festivities. To me, these traditions had a tremendous impact on my childhood. I feel very fortunate to have grown up in such a welcoming, fun neighborhood, and I can only hope my kids grow up in that same atmosphere.

If your neighborhood is thinking about doing a float, try it! You won’t regret it.

Cassie Amundson