July 3 is one of Jerry Juneau’s favorite days of the year, and that holds true for many families in Baton Rouge — particularly if they live in Kenilworth Subdivision.
It’s the day the roughly 800 households in the neighborhood surrender their streets to the city’s only parade celebrating Independence Day.
The 42nd annual Independence Day Parade is set to roll at 6:30 p.m. July 3, with about 50 units, said Kenilworth Civic Association parade chairman Paul Sicard.
This year’s theme is “Learning to Love Liberty.”
The parade has grown considerably from its humble beginnings, back when the subdivision was newly constructed.
When Juneau bought his house in 1972, Kenilworth was a half-mile outside the Baton Rouge city limits.
“It was a nice spot. It was four miles from LSU, an up-and-coming subdivision and the prices were nice,” Juneau recalled. He paid $36,000 for the lot and the house. “It was a pretty good investment,” he laughed.
In those days, Kenilworth Parkway didn’t intersect with Perkins Road, and only about 60 families lived there, compared to about 800 households today.
But what most appealed to Juneau was his neighbors. The Kenilworth Civic Association formed quickly, and held its first meeting in February 1972, and for the first few years met at the now-closed Vince’s Restaurant, but eventually started having meetings in members’ homes.
Juneau, who was president of the Kenilworth Civic Association when the first parade was planned, on July 4, 1973.
“I guess you could call it a plan,” he said. It was a two-unit parade, and only then if a lawn mower could be considered a unit. There was also a “band” consisting of a trumpet player and wash basin drums.
“My neighbor Glen Adams drove that riding lawn mower pulling a trailer with a keg of beer on it,” Juneau recalled. “We dispensed the beer down Kenilworth Parkway.”
Since then, the parade has gotten fancier, bigger and more organized. When Ed Bosworth took over in 1976, the nation’s bicentennial, the parade had already grown large enough that a separate committee was established to handle parade organization.
Eventually, even the date of the parade changed. Bob Mathews, who was chosen as KCA 2014 Resident of the Year, and former parade chair, said there were two reasons to change the annual parade from the morning of July 4 to the evening of July 3. The first, he said, was the heat.
“We had some older veterans marching, and it just got too hot,” he said. Years later, when the city of Baton Rouge started its annual fireworks display, it would have conflicted with a July 4 evening parade. So the date became fixed at July 3, and the name was changed to the KCA Independence Day Parade.
But one thing never seemed to change, even as the neighborhood and the parade grew.
“When we first moved in, there were a lot of university faculty members who were away from their own families,” Bosworth said. “They were looking for that kind of camaraderie.”
With the diverse backgrounds and talents of so many professors and other professionals, the Kenilworth Civic Association has remained full of fresh ideas and new and better ways of doing things, he said.
Juneau agreed. It is an ideal neighborhood for him, he said, because “In all those years, (Juneau would serve as president of the KCA for five terms over the years) we always had great cooperation and participation and involvement from everyone in Kenilworth. We worked together to build something, and still do.”
Though the days of passing out beer along the parade route are over, said Steve Billings, who served as parade chair in the 1990s, “It’s very family friendly,” he said.
There’s still something for everyone, and the parade draws a fair number of city residents, and quite a large number of politicians.
“It’s a good place to mix with people of the city,” Billings said.
The parade begins at the Kenilworth Science and Technology School.
For more information on the parade, or to see photos or read the history of the KCA, visit the parade’s website, http://www.kenilworthneighborhood.com/JULY4KCA.htm.