Energetic neighbor keeps long-running July 4 parade afloat

by: JONATHAN HOUSE - After coordinating the Royal Woodlands Children's Fourth of July Parade for five years, Kimarie Wolf, center, has earned the respect of her neighbors as the embodiment of the festive annual event.The Royal Woodlands neighborhood has no shortage of residents willing to help prepare for its annual July 4 parade. But even the most dedicated volunteers admit the event's success these days depends largely on the organizing efforts of Kimarie Wolf.

"Kimarie really is the brains behind this thing," says Sonny Jepson, a neighbor of Wolf, the long-running parade's organizer. "We're willing to follow instructions from her, but she's the engine. We do whatever Kimarie needs done."

A 14-year resident of the neighborhood south of Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway near Jesuit High School, Wolf has served as chairwoman of the Royal Woodlands Children's Fourth of July Parade for five years. Formal titles aside, Wolf is the one who sweats the details - including herding about 150 local children and their parents - to make the 10 a.m. parade of gaily decorated bicycles, pets, floats and cars seem like it just happened.

Perhaps more important, however, the charismatic marketing manager embodies the fun, old-school neighborly spirit the parade JONATHAN HOUSE - Aidan and Audrey Mollenhauer help decorate a bike for the Royal Woodlands Children's Fourth of July Parade on Wednesday.

"I'm wired to do this kind of stuff," Wolf says. "What keeps me involved in it is the kids. I don't have kids of my own, but I love to see the excitement on their faces. It's just a great little way to teach kids about the neighborhood."

The parade started at 10 a.m. on Wednesday at the intersection of Southwest Royal Woodlands Drive and Southwest Birch Avenue. The route snaked along Cherry, Pine, Chestnut, Oak and Elm avenues for about 45 minutes before wrapping up with a gathering at McMillan Park on Southwest Chestnut Place.

This year about 150 children participated by dressing up and decorating their bicycles and pets in various red, white and blue motifs. A similar number of parents pitch in with decorated strollers, larger floats and a couple of tricked-out cars to set the pace.

A panel of four judges award prizes, some provided by local businesses sponsoring the event, in seven categories including most creative, best float, best pet, and of course, most patriotic.

Wolf, a marketing manager for Beaverton-based E Software Professionals, says the parade has a history spanning five decades or more.

"At least as far back as 1960," she says of its longevity. "It's really one of the few events we have that brings everybody together."

She praises the ongoing participation of community agencies such as the Beaverton Police Department and Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue personnel, who often add an educational and public awareness element to the JONATHAN HOUSE - Caesar has been to quite a few Royal Woodlands Children's Fourth of July Parades over the years.

"It's a broad-reaching community event. We try to have it be fun for the kids as well as educational," she says.

Wolf, who recruited about 25 neighbors of all ages to help organize this year, notes she's never encountered a neighbor who wasn't willing to pitch in one way or another.

"Everyone I've ever approached or knocked on their door has been really helpful and accommodating," she observes. "People wait for it. They're excited for it."

On a recent sultry afternoon, a group of about 15 parade people gathered in Wolf's Cherry Avenue yard to get a head start on decorating. One of them, Matthew Staropoli, 17, a Westside Christian High School student, cut his teeth on the parade around age 5. Now he serves as a parade judge.

"We were always part of the parade," he says, gesturing to his younger sister Laura. "We would always try to compete, and now we're the ones judging."

Although this year it's anything goes, Staropoli fondly recalls previous parades based on themes such as "hippie," "dog" and "prairie/old west." Beaverton-based Mike's Electric, a perennial parade supporter, provides trucks and other equipment to facilitate some of the fancier floats.

"One year we had a yellow submarine," Staropoli recalls with a broad grin.

"There's some competitiveness to it with some bigger floats," he adds. "But the kids are more about fun. If a certain group won last year, we try not to have the same people win every year."

Another legacy, Jeff Mollenhauer, 32, moved from Beaverton to the San Francisco Bay area 14 years ago. This year, he brought his wife, Jane, and their children, Aidan, 6, and Audrey, 4, back to Beaverton so they could get a taste of his July 4 childhood experience.

"We normally come to visit in August," he says. "But this year we had to come early and get the excitement of the parade. It's just nice to share with my kids something I enjoyed as a kid."

Mollenhauer's mother, Dorene, who still lives in the neighborhood, says it's inspiring to see what some may consider an old-fashioned tradition continue, particularly in an era when people are seemingly busier and involved in more activities than ever.

"When I was younger, I ran the parade," she says. "Now it's moved on to the younger generation. It just keeps going. I've been trying to get Jeff to come back for the event for some time. This year, we're lucky his plans coincided."

Despite its association with Royal Woodlands, Wolf emphasizes the parade is for anyone with a festive holiday spirit to enjoy.

"You don't have to be from the neighborhood to be invited," she says. "We're open to anybody. That's why it's a great neighborhood to live in."by: JONATHAN HOUSE - From top left, Annie Miller, Marisa Henrie, Matthew Staropoli (with Caesar), Laura Staropoli, bottom left, Avery Miller, Simon Henrie, Kimarie Wolf, and Lola Henrie are the main organizers of the Royal Woodlands Children's Fourth of July Parade this year.

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