A Doug's Life: Menifee Throws a Party

Everyone loves a parade -- and apparently, everyone in Menifee also loves a carnival.

Call it a carnival, festival, fair, celebration ... it doesn't matter. What took place at Wheatfield Park on Saturday was the best example of the word community.

The weather was great, spirits were high, and smiles were everywhere during the city's annual celebration of Independence Day. So what if it took place on June 30? We had hot dogs, fireworks and constant reminders of the freedoms we enjoy. I'll celebrate that stuff any day.

To be honest, I wasn't quite sure what to expect as Kristen and I headed to the event with daughter Courtney, daughter Megan, son-in-law Jeff and grandkids Kaylee (6) and Cameron (almost 3). My previous experiences with city parades and carnivals included an excessive amount of marching youth clubs, a few primitive "floats" and commercial carnival rides that cost you an arm and a leg.

The parades usually are OK, but trying to include everyone often leads to chaos. Depending on whether you're a participant or spectator, sending a thousand kids down Main Street on a hot day can be tiring, noisy and -- dare I say it? -- kind of boring.

As for the carnival, it can be fun, but expensive. When the Ferris Wheel or the mini roller coaster costs four tickets at 75 cents a ticket, grandpa's wallet takes a beating. As for the games ... well, it's fun to watch the little ones try to pop balloons with a dart, but not so fun when they miss badly and are handed a plastic spider as a prize.

That's why Menifee's Independence Day celebration was so refreshing. They didn't try to cram everyone and his brother into the parade. They let most of those folks line the curbs. As 25 or so vehicles, youth organizations, kids on bikes and walking adults headed down that short stretch of La Piedra Road, most families were united as spectators, enjoying the scene together as the kids scooped up candy thrown or handed to them.

As a representative of Menifee 24/7, I walked in front of our company's parade entry, a float carrying Chamber of Commerce queens, including our own Tina Walker. Kaylee and Cameron joined the children of Menifee 24/7 sales and marketing superstar Shelli Stovall in passing out candy to spectators while cruising the parade route on bikes and scooters.

There were no commercial carnival rides, a fact that didn't seem to bother any of the thousands who attended. There was, however, a "bounce house" for the kids, along with several giant inflated slides and play areas. There was a dunk tank. And guess what? All were FREE. (Pop is happy).

Instead of costly game booths, kids enjoyed FREE craft making under the big tent. Cameron was very proud of himself for coloring a styrofoam airplane. Kaylee designed a thank you card to our troops, colored her own plane and decorated a beach ball. Kids and smiles were everywhere.

Then came the fireworks -- a colorful display overhead that could be seen for miles.

How does the city fund this, you ask? They charge local groups and businesses a fee for setting up vendor booths, where said vendors can make a few bucks selling food, clothing and other things a bit more appealing than a plastic spider. This helps to cover the cost of the craft items and other attractions that are the City of Menifee's gift to the people. So the local groups raise some money and the customers save some money. Everyone wins.

At the city's booth, a large roll of butcher paper on a long table invited residents to write suggestions about future developments in the city. As expected, there were lots of comments about a Trader Joe's, a movie theater and a bowling alley. But I'll settle for something else.

How about another festival?


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