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Murray Journal

Celebrating independence, cultivating UNITY: how one woman’s vision fostered a neighborhood tradition

Aug 10, 2023 02:23PM ● By Shaun Delliskave

While most of Murray was anticipating the annual Independence Day parade on State Street, even to the point of staking out spots, much to Murray PD’s chagrin, days in advance, folks in Murray’s eastside Hyland Lake neighborhood were anticipating another parade.  

In the pleasant suburb surrounding Tanner Lake, a tradition has germinated and blossomed over the last two and a half decades, binding the community together in a heartfelt celebration of unity and patriotism. This tale traces back to the vision of Carola Groos, whose aspiration to foster a stronger sense of camaraderie in her community led to the birth of an annual neighborhood parade. This tradition has been cherished and anticipated since its beginning in 1997.

According to Groos, the parade’s inception was fueled by two central motives. “At the time, I was in the LDS Primary Presidency, which meant I was working with a lot of children,” Groos said. After partaking in a parade during her previous residence in West Jordan, she recognized the joy the experience brought to the children, lighting the spark for a neighborhood parade. However, the idea was not merely about the delight of children. She envisioned the parade as a bridge, a platform for Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints members and non-member neighbors to strengthen their bonds. 

“I had only been in the neighborhood for a short time and realized everyone was busy with their own activities. We needed an activity that would include everyone,” Groos said.

Despite the humble beginnings, the parade was a spectacle of community participation. This year, leading the parade was a flatbed trailer decked out as a float and graced by 15 local musicians under the direction of Gavin Barrows. 

“We didn’t have a band. We had two boomboxes with synchronized marching music on cassette tapes that we had recorded,” Groos said. 

The music, laughter, and anticipation resonated through the Hyland Lake neighborhood as children on bicycles, scooters and roller skates, decorated in patriotic colors paraded down the streets, fostering a festive atmosphere.

“I remember children coming on their bikes with no decorations. We would hurriedly pull out crepe paper so they wouldn’t feel left out,” Groos said.  

The procession culminated at Woodstock Meadows Park, a not-so-well-maintained area at the time. Someone generally leads the parade in costume. They had Uncle Sam, Abe Lincoln, Betsy Ross and the Statue of Liberty at different times.  

“The County kept the bathrooms locked, and I would have to get the key from the house across the street,” Groos said, reminiscing about the early days. “We would have to go early to make sure the pavilion was clean—sweeping and painting over graffiti.”

The park has since been upgraded and is now managed by Murray City.

This year, partly cloudy skies comfortably shaded, and the entire neighborhood gathered for a giant potluck. The local Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints ward contributed over 300 hamburgers and hot dogs, augmenting the array of food brought by the attendees. 

“We had one 5-gallon container of Country Time lemonade and one 5-gallon container of water. We did not have money for juice or milk. Everything was donated,” Groos said, recounting the picnic’s early days.

Games were organized for the children with small prizes for the winners. “We made sure everyone won at least one prize,” Groos said. As several hundred participants chattered, patriotic musical numbers echoed around the park, complete with a vocalist singing the national anthem.

The journey, however, was not without its fair share of challenges. Organizing such a grand event with limited resources was a daunting task. 

“First, there was no money, so everything from flyers to costume rentals to food to paper products to prizes had to be donated,” Groos said. 

Despite the hurdles, the perseverance and dedication of Groos and the community ensured the event’s continuity and success. “That year, my daughter and I personally delivered all the flyers to 296 households, and the turnout was huge,” Groos said.

Groos believes that their annual parade goes beyond just a local event. It celebrates the country and its melting pot of diverse cultures. As someone whose parents were immigrants from the Netherlands, she deeply respects the unity in diversity. “This event was to celebrate this country, all its people, and the freedoms it provides,” Groos said.

Though Groos could not keep track of all the children who participated over the years, their return to the parade with their kids was proof of the event’s impact. “I believe they are building strong families and passing a sense of pride in this country to the next generation,” Groos said.

One of Groos’ special memories was one year as they ate breakfast: “The jets from Hill Air Force Base flew right over the park. It was funny because people thought I had arranged it and commented, ‘Wow, Carola, you’re good.’  I just laughed,” Groos said. λ