Photos: Muska Lightstone, Rivka Sandberg, Muli Berger
On Sunday, Lag B’Omer, Pico Blvd., a main artery in the city of Los Angeles was closed for ‘the event of the year’; thousands of chairs, hundreds of feet of barricades and a grand ‘cat-walk’-style stage was set up in anticipation of the 15th Lag B’Omer Parade in Los Angeles.
The event was set to the backdrop of a stunning replica of 770, draped with the 12 Pesukim and a stage the Rebbe would stand on during the parade -giving the children a picture of what a parade looked like by the Rebbe.
Opening remarks were made by Rabbi Boruch Shlomo Cunin, Chabad’s Head Shliach of the West Coast. “The Unity that stands before us today – thousands of souls united – brings true joy to our Rebbe,” he began. “Such nachas… As I look out to this crowd, as we celebrate fifty years of spreading the mission of the Rebbe on the West Coast.”
Rabbi Cunin then directed the crowd’s attention to the 30-foot Jumbo-Tron screen as he introduced a video of the Rebbe’s Sicha given by a previous Lag B’Omer parade in Crown Heights.
Masters of Ceremonies and ringmasters of the parade, as in the past, were Rabbi Mayer Greene (Shliach to Tarzana, CA) and Rabbi Chaim Mentz (Shliach to Bel Air, CA). With a combined experience of over 50 years in leading highly successful youth programs and parades, they immediately connected with the 2,000+ children from schools, day schools and groups from all over SoCal, keeping the program fresh and exciting, yet efficient and with constant flow.
Rabbi Ezra Schochet, Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshiva Ohr Elchonon Chabad, was honored to lead everyone with the recitation of Kapital 33 and 20 of Tehillim.
Rabbi Greene thanked all the sponsors and introduced the parade organizing director, Rabbi Mendel Duchman, to lead the children in the Twelve Pesukim.
One by one, children from various schools across California were called up to the stage to recite the Pesukim with enthusiasm. One of the children honored with a possuk was a young 7-year old Shliach from Roseville, California, who attends the Shluchim Online School. Following the possuk he received a rousing applause from the crowd.
Following the giving of Tzedakah and the raffling off of several prizes, the MC’s, with much fanfare by Naftoli Finkel of Shira Orchestra, announced, “Ladies and gentleman, children of all ages… Let’s begin The Great Parade!” At that point dozens of confetti rocket launchers shot up, with confetti and streamers of all colors raining down on the excited crowd.
The parade was led by a Los Angeles Police Motorcade which was followed by the Cheder Menchem Marching Band and Flag Procession. The parade featured an array of entertainment that including the Los Angeles Fire Department, the famed Pasadena Scottish Pipes and Drums, Ross Harper’s Island Time Steel Drum Band, The Junior Clowns, and a grand finale presented by the Los Angeles Clippers Drum Line.
A surprise addition to this year’s parade was a special presentation built by the Bochurim of Yeshiva Ohr Elchonon Chabad entitled “The Keilim of Bais Hamikdosh”. Passing along the parade route, it was met with sounds of “wow!” and much applause.
As every year, the parade was grateful to have the participation and presence of the members of Hatzalah and Shmira.
A Lag B’Omer Parade is no parade without colorful floats, and the community did not let the children down; beautiful floats, with themes revolving around the Rebbe’s Mitzvah Campaigns were designed and built by many of the bochurim, yungerleit and girls from the many schools and shuls in the Los Angeles area.
Highlighting the Parade was the Upsherin Train which held over twenty children. As it approached the grand stand Rabbi Duchman picked up one of the Upsherin kids and lifted him on the stage for Rabbi Cunin, who took a snip of his hair.
As the procession came to a close, the children were then treated to an Extreme Trampoline show and its jaw-dropping act.
Before the conclusion of the parade, a video showing the Rebbe blessing the children at the conclusion of a Lag B’Omer parade was played, reinforcing the feeling that they were truly part of the Rebbe’s very own parade.
The day’s festivities came to a climax and close when each school and group had the chance to march down the parade route, in front of everyone, holding up their marching signs they prepared in the days leading up to the parade.
The parade concluded when Rabbi Mendel Duchman, organizing director of the LA great Parade thanked Rabbi Yanky Baitelman, Rabbi Yossi Burston, Rabbi Mayer Greene, Rabbi Chaim Mentz, Rabbi Levi Raichick, Rabbi Leibel Cohen, as well as to Koppel Zirkind and Yanky Raskin, as well as all of the Shluchim and bochurim of Yeshiva Ohr Elchonon Chabad in making this parade the great success that it was.
May the parade give the Rebbe much-deserved nachas.