Next to the Salem Super Cruise, one of the biggest downtown crowd magnets will be here Saturday. The annual Grande Parade first appeared back in 1981 when the city celebrated its 175th birthday with the first Jubilee. Many of you will remember the Jubilee. That event, which lasted into the 90s, was huge during its day. The Jubilee drew 5,000 people daily over its annual four-day run before becoming streamlined and ultimately stopped. An all good things must come to an end kind of decision. Which was wise. Its time had indeed come and gone. According to our research, the Grande Parade itself attracted 15,000-20,000 residents during the height of the Jubilee. That might have been something of a stretch but it did bring in a bunch of people.
Times have changed and with it went the Jubilee and crowds in the thousands. But the Grande Parade is a remnant that we should cherish. It is brought back for the simple reason that people love it. The parade is now the highlight of the city's celebration of the heritages called the iFest. What started several years ago as a weekend event is now being held only on Saturday. That shouldn't diminish its appeal. The iFest is a celebration of heritages. Plural. Yours, ours, your neighbors and that of everyone living in our fair city. There isn't a shortage of heritage here.
Salem was founded in 1806. Throughout the decades, a blending of ethnicities, cultures, faiths and beliefs has shaped its populace. We are a proud people. Immigrants came from different lands and into a melting pot right here. Many of you reading this had parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and so on down the ancestral line who were not born in Salem. But they came here and their families grew here. Many of you reading this yourselves may hail from elsewhere. But Salem is now home. You grew here. Generations have passed that kind of heritage down to our children.
The popular parade isn't a stand-alone event. There will be more to Saturday than just that. The iFest is being billed by organizers as an international celebration featuring entertainment, food and fellowship. That approach works for us. It's another chance for many to come downtown's way and mingle and have fun as summer rapidly shrinks. And, of course, save for the food vendors, it is all free. Much like the Cruise.
We have published multiple advance stories on the iFest. Information can also be found today on page 10A. Come out and celebrate your own heritage while helping others celebrate theirs. The Salem iFest is another great reason to come to the downtown area and have fun with your family, neighbors and friends. Enjoy it. Appreciate where you are now and appreciate where your own lineage emerged.