The History of the Fiesta Day Parade, Once Marin’s Biggest Celebration

It’s the summer of 1948 and that marching band is heading down Fourth Street in San Rafael. But it’s not the Fourth of July. It’s the 15th annual Fiesta Day Parade of Sunday, August 29, 1948 that lasted three hours, attracted 12,000 spectators and included 10 historically themed floats along with 21 competing drum-and-bugle corps from throughout California.

According to Lane Dooling of the Marin History Museum, that’s drum major Harold Lezzini leading the way followed by front-row drummers (L-R) Louis Melini, Don Sturken, Leno Franzini and Leland Adhern. Fiesta Days began in 1934; the 1948 celebration included street dancing with music by Howard Fredericks and his Strolling Troubadours, as well as swim meets and baseball games at Albert Park.

The last Fiesta Day celebration, a summer highlight, was in 1952. Now, 72 years later, Marin’s top summer festival is the Marin County Fair, held at the County Fairgrounds July 3 through 7 and featuring rides, exhibits, concerts and fireworks. If you’re looking for a 2024 Fourth of July parade, there’s one in Sausalito that heads down Bridgeway to Caledonia starting at 10 a.m.; another in Larkspur that starts on Magnolia Ave. at 10:30 a.m. and ends on Tamalpais Dr. in Corte Madera; and Novato’s travels the length of Grant Ave. starting at 10 a.m.. All three parades will be followed with games, picnics, even fireworks in Sausalito.