Stars and tykes

Wendy MacBain, of Gilroy, holds onto Coatimundi, an 8-month-old

Monday was a big day for Princess.

It’s her first time. She’s nervous,

said Siena Filice, 8, standing alongside a bedazzled wagon
bearing a wire cage embellished with patriotic spangle. Full
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Monday was a big day for Princess. “It’s her first time. She’s nervous,” said Siena Filice, 8, standing alongside a bedazzled wagon bearing a wire cage embellished with patriotic spangle.

A red hen peered out curiously from inside; a handmade sign declaring “Number one chicken” completing its mobile palace.

Poppy Lane’s annual Fourth of July parade was nothing short of homespun goodness doused in adorable – a grassroots event organizer Nick Zukowski says will stay that way “as long as we’re alive.”

Along with his wife, Linda, the Zukowskis have remained at the heart of a local tradition commencing 35 years ago as a casual holiday get-together. It’s now a neighborhood mainstay for residents dwelling on Poppy Lane and the outlying areas near Burchell Road. Turnout ranges from cute kids on bikes, cute kids on pogo sticks, cute kids in wagons and a smiling swarm of parents armed with cameras to document the cuteness.

Age is by no means a sidelining constituent, however, as a handful of grown-ups were among the 27 promenading entries.

“Why? Because I’m the oldest,” said Dick Gomer, on why he had the honors of leading the parade. The 82-year-old is a former marine who served in the World War II and Korean wars.

Others pulled out all the wardrobe stops when it came to dressing up their canine companions – or, animal companions. Ingrid Doll, 57, extended the nationalistic fashion statements to their livestock.

“His name is Uncle Zion,” she said, patting her 16-year-old llama a pat on its pillowy side.

The gesture expelled little clouds of dust into the air.

Uncle Zion was accompanied by Shadow, Doll’s handsome Tennessee Walker and retiree of the San Jose Police mounted patrol unit after 15 years of service. Whether the 24-year-old horse was indignant or approving of his miniature Uncle Sam top hat is anyone’s guess, but the equine looked sophisticated, nonetheless.

” ‘Best Farm Animal,’ ” mused Chris Cali, standing in a small huddle with four other judges after the 15-minute procession came to a close. “Do you think alpaca, the chicken or the llama?”

With all three candidates exemplifying the upmost qualities desired in a “best” farm animal – such as being a good sport about participating in a parade, for one – the decision proved difficult.

“Chickens … you guys are chickens not being able to decide who’s best,” said judge Ron Briscoe.

A gamut of attendees, such as Henry Rubio, said they have frequented the humble, but cheerful extravaganza for years.

“A lot of kids that were in the parade, their parents were in the parade,” observed the Burchell Road resident of 36 years.

Like Nikki Filice, who was there with her daughters Siena, 8; Summer, 8; Sophia, 5; and her niece Paige Zukowski, 6. Perched in an elaborately decorated wagon, Sophia and Paige were looking poised and fabulous, despite the fact Sophia was feeling the heat.

“I’m cooking,” she said, looking up from beneath a visor.

Twins Joshua and Jacob Gomer, 8, were also excited with the prospect of cooling down. The two siblings showed off their no-handsies pogo-sticking abilities, and were a force to be reckoned with. They weren’t really concerned about awards.

“I don’t really care about that … I just care about swimming,” Josh said.

The two went on to sweep the “Best Pogo Stick” category.

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