For the first time in recent memory the sun shone before the grill was hot and before anyone could spill ladles of maple syrup over their pancakes. The Montecito Firefighters were back at it, serving breakfast to early risers for 7 bucks a plate. Minus costs for the eggs, sausages and pancake better, monies raised went directly to the Fire Department, who originally began the breakfast in an effort to raise money for a firefighter battling leukemia.

The department’s tradition of giving seems to continue as pamphlets laying on our tables announced the Montecito Firefighter’s Association’s formation of the “Montecito Firefighter’s Charitable Foundation,” a non-profit corporation which at press time was still awaiting final approval of its 501(c)3 status. The foundation aims to contribute its funds to local schools, child-related charities and those that support burn victims, including those that support firefighters and their families. Among other foundation enterprises is the visitor’s museum, located at Montecito Fire Station 1 on San Ysidro Road, the venue of the Fourth of July Pancake Breakfast.

Firefighters had planned to have the museum ready by Village Fourth, but firefighter Drue Holthe says they’ve fallen behind schedule. When it is finished the museum will greet visitors with a grand entrance and its wrought-iron gate. Outfitted on the walls will be firefighter equipment, old memorabilia and other items of local nostalgia.

By the time late arrivers had taken their last bites and wiped their mouths, parade preparations were undertaken at the top of San Ysidro Road. A full 37 entries participated under the leadership and guidance of Dana Newquist, who again executed the procession with admirable precision. Parade exhibitions ranged from traditional to seminal to sentimental. Highlights include:

1. Village Fourth icon Nicole Teasdale (she dresses up as the Statue of Liberty every year) brought golden retriever Jack and invited sister, Hope, along to walk in the parade. Nicole and Hope came to commemorate the life of their mother, Wendy Steele, who died in December. Wendy’s art had been synonymous with the Village Fourth and became widely known and appreciated.

2. For the first time in Village Fourth history, the Grand Marshal Jeep was not an entry. This year’s Grand Marshal, Fire Chief Ron McClain, who usually drives the jeep, opted instead to ride in a Ford Model T Depothack, which we’re told is a vehicle belonging to the infancy of station wagons.

3. The surviving family of Bernie Taran delivered a new entry, “What’s Cookin’,” in honor of Bernie, a former MERRAG president and dedicated volunteer who died last June. His wife, Sissy, daughters, Nadine, Franny and Tiffany, grandson Ethan and others each dressed up as a family barbeque ingredient – hamburger, hot dog, watermelon, corn on the cob and so on. “We’re his favorite meal,” Tiffany said before the rest of family members aptly observed, “Bernie loved to eat.”

Parade winners in the six categories were:

Most Patriotic – “Seeing Spots”: The Doubleday family spotted their entire bodies in red, white and blue paint, and did the same for Dalmatians, Pepper and Pisco (they pointed out that the paint was non-toxic and temporary).

Most Original – A tie between “Beachstars Gymnastics” and “Boys on Wheels”

Most Musical – “What’s Cookin’”

Funniest – Bressler Brownies

Cutest – “American Baby,” which judges awarded the most points of any entry, and which appeared to have the most participants

Whatever – “Rocket Razors”

By noon, Lower Manning Park was teeming with excitement. Montecito Association President Bob Collector emceed the gathering and did play-by-play for the Montecito Cup. Village Fourth founder, organizer and mother Diane Pannkuk mediated between the kids. For the fourth consecutive year, Montecito Union took home the three-foot trophy, sweeping all three events. Its attendance advantage proved to be a breaking point in the tug-of-war challenge, but both the potato sack race and pie-eating contest were won on account of athletic fortitude and vacuuming excellence. In the sack race, leaping across the finish line by a nose was Montecito Union sixth-grader Tanner Mjelde, who collected a first place award for the second straight year. Montecito Union fifth-grader Michael Reyes was first to swallow the last chunk of cherry pie and as Collector jokingly observed, he did it with “such table manners, such elegance.”

When the Montecito Association runs out of the 2,000 American flags it orders for the fest, it’s an indication that the event was well-attended. Our guess is that there were more people than flags. This is a credit to Pannkuk, who was giving her 11th shot at the Village Fourth, and she pulled off one that’ll go down in the books.