Longtime organizer's final Arbutus Fourth of July Parade

Area residents have come to recognize the Arbutus Fourth of July parade by its numerous performers, marching bands and community organizations.

More so, however, they have come to know the parade for its organizer, George Kendrick.

The 90-year-old Arbutus resident has been organizing the event for the past 16 years.

When this year's parade down East Drive ends Thursday afternoon, he will retire from that role.

Kendrick said he did not want to end his involvement with the area's annual patriotic display, but his body told him otherwise.

"If my eyesight was good, I'd never give it up," he said. "My age would never stop me, because age is just a number.

"I give this up begrudgingly," he said. "I want to have a handle on everything."

He has been organizing the annual Arbutus Firecracker 10K race — which takes place at 8 a.m. July 4, the morning of the parade — for 31 years, since the race around Arbutus began.

Kendrick said Nancy and Sarah Ehrlich had been organizing the parade, but decided it was time to hand it off to someone else 16 years ago.

"They just got tired of it," Kendrick said. "They needed somebody to take over it, and guess what, who showed up."

The parade costs between $20,000 and $22,000 each year and requires a great deal of logistical planning, Kendrick said.

He spends countless hours each year, contacting bands and mobilizing community organizations, planning both the Arbutus 5K and 10K races as well as the parade, and organizing fundraisers to pay for all the activities.

In 2014, he will pass most of those responsibilities on to Richard Greene, owner of Arbutus Auto Body Works on Leeds Avenue and a longtime parade volunteer.

"I've been involved with it for a number of years," Greene said. "There was talk that George was going to be stepping out of the spotlight."

Greene has been helping out with the parade since he moved to Arbutus about 12 years ago and said he was interested in continuing the community tradition that Kendrick has grown.

"He's been doing it for so long, there's so much to learn," Greene said. "He makes it happen ever year.

"I love the Fourth of July parade," he said. "I enjoy the way it brings the community to the center of town.

"With George stepping away, I just didn't want it to disappear," he said. "My main focus is to continue to focus on what he's been doing the last couple years."

The goal of bringing the community together and creating a family-friendly atmosphere for parade-goers to celebrate the holiday and honor their country will remain, he said.

Del. Jimmy Malone, an Arbutus native who represents District 12, which includes Arbutus, said he has known Kendrick for about 50 years.

He said he would be sad to see him step back from organizing the parade, which has become a tradition for many Arbutus families.

"There's a lot of people in the community who have lived here their whole lives," Malone said. "Who, every year, do the same old thing, going to all the different events (on the Fourth).

"Mr. George has always been good at what he does," he said. "He loves the community, he loves being involved.

"I hope it's not Mr. George's last year. But if he does decide to step down, he will definitely be sorely missed," Malone said. "He's such an integral part of the community."

Malone, a father of two, said Kendrick is fortunate to have a supportive family helping him organize the parade each year.

It's a group effort Kendrick admitted he could not do without.

"I'm proud of my family, because I couldn't have done it without them," Kendrick said.

He said his daughter, Pam Schultz, and son-in-law, Grant Schultz, as well as his son, Ross Kendrick, and his wife, Terry, and their three children, Chad, Brandon and Heather, have been instrumental in getting the parade off each year.

His wife, Naamah, has also supported him throughout all of his parade-planning endeavors.

"Sometimes it wasn't easy," she said. "(But) the kids like it.

"They have allowed their father to give to the community," she said.

"That's my family," George Kendrick said.

"And Arbutus is my extended family. We have a number of people in the community who help us out," he said.

"This is without a doubt the greatest community in the world," he said.

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