Grass Valley, Nevada City collaborate to celebrate Fourth of July |

Grass Valley, Nevada City collaborate to celebrate Fourth of July

Hollie Grimaldi Flores
Special to Prospector

Know & Go

WHAT: 4th of July Parade and Fireworks “Hats Off To Nevada County”

WHEN: Parade 11 a.m.; fairgrounds open at 3 p.m.; fireworks at 9:30 p.m.

WHERE: Historic downtown Grass Valley and the Nevada County Fairgrounds.

HOW: Fairgrounds ticket prices $10 in advance, $15 at the gate, kids 12 and under and military with ID are free. Chamber offices have tickets at Grass Valley Chamber, 128 East Main St., Grass Valley, 530.273.4667. Nevada City Chamber, 132 Main St., Nevada City, Call 530-265-2692 or go to

Since the turn of the last century, in the spirit of cooperation, the cities of Nevada City and Grass Valley have been alternating the location of their 4th of July parade. This, being an odd numbered year, means it will be held in Grass Valley.

Dubbed “Hats Off to Nevada County,” the day-long celebration begins with a parade at 11 a.m. on Main Street and culminates with fireworks after dark at the Nevada County Fairgrounds.

Grass Valley Downtown Association Executive Director Marni Marshall got her toes wet last July in her first months on the job while helping Nevada City Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Cathy Whittlesey and members of the Grass Valley Chamber of Commerce. But this year, with Grass Valley as the host city, Marshall has quite a bit more responsibility. The holiday comes just 10 days after the Grass Valley will have served as a pit stop on The Great Race and a week after the first Thursday Night Market of the season. The executive director and her staff of one are busy!

In addition to the parade and fireworks, the organizations also work together to put on an evening of activities at the Nevada County Fairgrounds that residents and visitors have come to know and love.

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“This is a lovely tradition that brings the community to our beautiful historic downtown and everyone loves a parade,” Marshall said.

Whittlesey shared that until the mid-1980s, Nevada City held their fireworks celebration at Pioneer Park, but the crowds got too big for both the grounds and the streets. Due to that, along with the growth of trees in the park blocking views and posing as a possible threat to public safety, the decision was made to move the party to the fairgrounds. They asked various groups to share the event with them, the Downtown Association said yes, and the chamber joined in a few years later. The celebration and fireworks have been held there ever since.

In the early years, Whittlesey, says people would go to the fairgrounds to watch sprint car races with Ernie Purcell Speedway and they would watch the fireworks from the grandstand. But times have changed.

Marshall and Whittlesey both agree that a lot of work goes into putting on this event. In fact, neither of them believes they could do it without the help of others. In addition to securing participants into the parade itself, many, many other tasks go into putting on the day-long celebration — from getting food vendors passing the rigors of Environmental Health, to finding entertainers, to securing beer and wine along with people to pour, to crafters and bounce houses — the list goes on.

But for all the demanding work, they are not complaining. Whittlesey says they do it as a service to the community.

“Come on out and enjoy it,” she said. “It is nice. It’s a nice community event. It’s our community service. We need to provide this for the community.”

Whittlesey, who has participated for at least 35 years, said the things that have most changed over the decades are the things the public doesn’t see, such as changes in laws and increased costs, from renting the venue to securing permits, and of course, the cost of the fireworks themselves. She says that is why they began asking the community to get involved with sponsorships.

“If people in the community don’t support it, it can’t happen,” she said. “We have to have the sponsorships to have a parade go down the street and have fireworks at night.”

Of course, for parade watchers, what matters most is getting a good seat and having something to see. The Greater Grass Valley Chamber of Commerce will accept parade entries until July 3 with prizes and trophies and bragging rights up for grabs. Marshall says there will be horses this year along with cars, floats, dancers, bands, and plenty more. Former Grass Valley Mayor Jason Fouyer is Grand Marshal. The parade will be emceed by Jay Cooper and Carol Scofield and The Nevada County Concert band will perform before and during the parade. Grass Valley Downtown Association Program Specialist Heather Haddock will sing the National Anthem.

The event does serve as a potential fundraiser for the three groups. Whittlesey says if there is a profit, they split it three ways and if there is a loss, the three groups share the burden evenly as well.

Several Treat Street booths will be open and other food vendors will be on site serving many favorites including burgers, corn dogs, ice cream and caramel corn. There will be live music beginning at 4 p.m. as well as craft vendors, activities for the kids, and beer and wine for the adults.

As communities across the state cancel their celebrations, Nevada County has much to be thankful for thanks to the Chambers of Commerce and Grass Valley Downtown Association. “Hats Off to Nevada County” and hats off to those who make it happen.

Hollie Grimaldi Flores is a Nevada County resident and freelance writer for hire. She can be reached at

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