Nevada City California has always been a very unique place, that was true in the formation period in the 1850’s as it is to-day in the 21st Century. Today the town, which is in California’s Historic Mother Lode Country foothills on the edge of the Tahoe National Forest is a Victorian gem. While the town shows it’s historic past with pride there is an assurance that the community is fully involved in new century. Nevada City is especially know for the wide range of artists in all mediums that have chosen to live and work there.
One such artist, David “ Sparky “ Parker found the streets and residents of this cute little town the perfect inspiration for his craft….painting. Arriving in 1970 he adapted quickly to being a local and while all the time painting, there was time to become a fire fighter for the Tahoe National Forest, local bartender and a community activist. Being a 21-year member of the local Sierra Community College Board of Trustees, Parker successfully helped bring to Grass Valley the Sierra College Nevada County Campus.
It was in 1988 that Parker came up the idea of the Famous Marching Presidents. And with all the Presidents, a few First Ladies and a large group of Secret Service Agents, made their first stroll down Nevada City’s Broad Street in that year’s Constitution Day Parade. The first decade, which Parker would later call “ The First Decade….if you remember it you were not there decade “ had the unique marching group grow in numbers and fame.
In 1990 the FMP’s sponsored California’s largest community band The Watsonville Community Band to come to the weekends events. They played and attracted to what still is the largest crowd gathered for the first Saturday Night Concert. The next day they marched ahead of their hosts and turned around at the review stand and serenaded the Presidents with “ Hail to the Chief .” Winning parade honors the band would return to perform in the 1993 parade.
The year 1990 would also mark to other historic moments for the Famous Marching Presidents: the first T-Shirt which honored the Watsonville Band created by artist Parker and the advent of the William “ Bill “ Lambert Community Service Award . This prestigious award has been given annually since then. The Nevada County Cultural Icon R.L. Crabb joined the Famous Marching Presidents in 1993 when he created his first classic T. Every year since he has been the creator of the Famous Marching Presidents yearly logo. He created the Official Seal in 1996.
The year 1998 would start what would eventually be called “ The First Lady Decade “ and with good reason. First Lady Karen Chizek and First Lady Gene Thompson had correctly decided that there had been not enough attention being shown to their side of the house. And when First Lady Patti Foster joined Parker in the organizational part, the stage was set to finally polish the Famous Marching Presidents apple. And it will so shine brightly! Changes began to happen. The First Lady corps grew not only in numbers but in their own special spirit. Their dress became splendid throughout their ranks. With some making their own outfits. Such enthusiasm spread through out the entire group and the Famous Marching Presidents soon found themselves the most anticipated group to see in the Constitutional Parade.
A retired school teacher Patti Foster now turned to what was her true love….being an artist. The group had made the Miners Foundry their new home which they have continued to use to this day. Foster turned her artistic eye to decorating the Foundry’s wonderful Stone Room into a patriotic wonderland. Her attention to detail turned what had been a chaotic food situation into dinner for all. By the end of the second decade the Famous Marching Presidents had become the only celebrated group of its kind in America and were very proud to be such.
The third decade is officially called the “ The Clever Decade “ and it started in 2009 by arranging a new coherence by establishing a committee to manage activities led by First Lady Nancy Patmont. In honor of twenty years marching down Nevada City’s Broad Street a new event was created. On the Friday of Presidents Weekend, the Kick Off Party celebrates in a casual byob and pot-luck fashion, the meeting of current and Alumni Famous Marching Presidents. While no one is in uniform (that’s saved for Sunday) you see some very historic correct hats.
Jesse and Kay Connor hosted in their splendid and historic Seals Avenue Nevada City home the first year and continue as of today. Nevada City’s July 4th Parade in 2009 found the Presidents first event out side of Presidents Weekend with a float honoring that women’s right to vote in America. ‘Aaron Sargent and Ellen Clark Sargent Education’ became the theme in 2010 as the Educational Outreach Program started. A program that finds fully-costumed Presidents and First Lady visits to Nevada County Schools.
Silver in the Gold Country was the theme in 2012 as the group honored their 25 years of celebrating the United States Constitution. To honor that the Famous Marching Presidents held a group art show at Grass Valley’s Center for the Arts with 18 artist. The Second Annual Art Show opened for a three week run July 3, 2013, also at the Center for the Arts.
September 8, 2013 finds the Sargent’s 19th Amendment Project for a monument in Nevada City starting. Wow….and we are only halfway in the Famous Marching Presidents Clever Decade.