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Home / fire steamer

Swallows Day Parade returns to San Juan Capistrano

The annual Swallows Day Parade in San Juan Capistrano returns Saturday following back-to-back cancellations due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“A week and a half before the big day,” organizers were told in 2020 that they had to cancel the annual event, said Jim Taylor, president of the San Juan Capistrano Fiesta Association.

Then, last year, the winter surge canceled another parade, he said.

“Finally, I got the word we could have the 2022 parade,” but then organizers were told there was a severe and highly contagious equine virus threatening horses in the state, Taylor said.

The Swallows Parade has always been touted as the largest non-motorized parade, and now organizers could not use horses in it.

“We pivoted and have our bands and colorful walking groups, and, for the first time in 62 years, we’ve allowed some selected motor vehicles in the parade,” Taylor said.

For instance, an antique fire steamer will be pulled by a small pickup truck, Taylor said.

Taylor also called on car clubs in the area to get unique vehicles into the parade such as Model A’s, a group of Woodies, DeLoreans and movie prop cars.

“Oscar Mayer sent the Weiner Mobile,” Taylor said.

Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes will bring along his department’s new SWAT humvee, Taylor said.

“We get to do a few things we couldn’t do before because we didn’t want to scare the horses,” Taylor said. “We have a flyover at 10:40 a.m.”

Two helicopters will be part of the parade as well, he said.

“So, we’re opening with a bang,” he said. “We wanted to make it entertaining while keeping our horses home and safe.”

Construction on Ortega Highway and on Metrolink’s tracks in the area are other obstacles the parade faced this year, Taylor said.

“I thought, ‘Here come the locusts — that’s next,” he said with a laugh.

The parade usually draws between 40,000 to 50,000 people. It’s not clear how large the crowd will be this year, Taylor said.

The swallows are beginning to make a comeback as well, he said. Plastic “condos” were set up for them, but Taylor thinks the “new plastic condo smell” initially drove them off, “But they’re starting to use them now. Every now and again we see them.”

Some traditionalists did not like the idea of having motor vehicles in the parade, but Taylor said, “Cancellation was not an option. Three years would have been fatal.”

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