San Rafael’s Fiesta Day Parade


IS THIS SAN RAFAEL’S annual Fourth of July Parade down Fourth Street in 1948? Not quite. It’s an annual parade; it’s down Fourth Street; it’s in 1948; and it’s in San Rafael — but it’s in August, not July. This image shows the 15th annual Fiesta Day Parade, held on Sunday, August 29, 1948.

Fiesta Days were established to honor the forthcoming feast day of the archangel Raphael, for whom the City of San Rafael was named. The weekend-long celebration was sponsored by the Marinita Parlor of the Native Daughters of the Golden West and the Mount Tamalpais Parlor of the Native Sons of the Golden West.

The Fiesta Days tradition began in 1934; the 1948 celebration included the crowning of Mary Lou Nardi as Fiesta Senorita and street dancing with music by Howard Fredericks and his Strolling Troubadours, as well as swim meets and baseball games at Albert Park. The 1948 parade reportedly lasted three hours, attracted 12,000 spectators and included 10 historically themed floats, along with 21 competing drum-and-bugle corps from all over California. According to research by Lane Dooling of the Marin History Museum, leading the corps pictured is drum major Harold Lezzini, followed by front-row drummers (L-R) Louis Melini, Don Sturken, Leno Franzini and Leland Adhern. The last San Rafael Fiesta Day celebration took place in 1952. Now, almost 70 years later, Marin’s festive summer highlight is the Marin County Fair, held at the County Fairgrounds July 3 through 7.

This article originally appeared in Marin Magazine’s print edition with the headline: “Forward March”.