When Dave Szymanski was 5, he sat in the Junior Woman’s Club float with his mother for the Coronado Fourth of July parade.
At 12, Szymanski carried the banner with his friend in the Coronado Fourth of July parade.
Szymanski at 20 joined his father on the Fourth of July Parade committee.
Frankly, his whole life has been about the Fourth of July, yet he’s never been just an audience member getting to enjoy the parade.
He has always either been in it or helped organize it.
Following father’s footsteps
His father, Andrew Paul, had been on the committee for more than half a century before he had to step down due to Parkinson’s disease.
I wanted to follow the tradition of what my dad did…I’ve got about 19 years to go before I can pass him”-Parade Chairman Dave Szymanski.
“I wanted to follow the tradition of what my dad did…I’ve got about 19 years to go before I can pass him,” Szymanski chuckles.
Szymanski is the Parade Chairman and he couldn’t imagine doing anything else with his life, he says.
He’s now been in the committee for 35 years.
During the day, he’s in the education system as a teacher in El Cajon, but he’s thinking about the parade all year round and what to do for the next year.
Planning does not officially start until January, so if he’s not thinking about it, he’s spending half the year planning for it.
The committee wants the parade to last about two hours long, which means about 125-130 entries are in it each year, and Szymanski is responsible for finding those entries.
He’ll send out reminders and applications starting April to bands and businesses and equestrians who have participated in years past, and to new groups.
“Got to be flexible”
Coordinating close to 150 groups of people who want to walk in the parade is a big feat, but Szymanski has been doing this his entire life and he knows how to navigate it now.
“You can’t get stressed about it. You’ve got to be flexible. You just got to go with the flow,” he says.
However, that is not to say that Szymanski hasn’t had hard years planning the most important day of the year in Coronado.
The hardest Fourth of July he’s had to plan was the parade the year after his father passed away seven years ago.
“With him not being there, it was a bit of a challenge,” he says. (His father helped alongside him on and off for the first 28 years that Szymanski was part of the committee.)
Love of parade
Szymanski had other individuals that he could turn to for help, such as George Smith, one of his father’s friends in the committee. But his father molded the love of the Fourth of July Parade into Szymanski’s core, supplying it into who he is today.
“But I had George and other committee members at that time that I could rely on for resources,” Szymanski says. “So, having George has been wonderful, you know, and he’s still doing it.”
Smith is going on his 50th year in the committee, having worked with both Szymanski’s father and Szymanski over the years.
Smith has also passed down his legacy in a similar way to Szymanski and his father, with his son Scott, who has been on the committee for 10 years.
And like Smith and his father, Szymanski does not see himself stopping anytime soon.
“It’s not, ‘here’s the trophy, thanks for what you do.’ I don’t do it because of that,” says Szymanski. “I do it because I know other people enjoy it…Just allowing people to celebrate our Independence Day.”
Are you ready to celebrate Independence Day at Coronado’s Fourth of July festivities? Visit our CFOJ webpage at thecoronadonews.com/fourth-of-july/, where you’ll find all the information you need to make this year’s celebration unforgettable. Check out local hotel accommodations, restaurant recommendations, and more!