A love of horses, a strong commitment to community service and two years of hard work have earned local resident Dennis Serpa a berth in the 2017 Rose Parade. Serpa is a member of Backcountry Horsemen of California, Mid-Valley Unit, a local 400-member strong volunteer organization which directly assists the U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and County of Stanislaus in operating backcountry camps and maintaining urban, national forest and wilderness trail systems.
An appearance in the Rose Parade is by invitation only, and only 20 equestrian units were invited to participate in the 2017 Rose Parade. The 15 members of the Mid-Valley parade unit were invited to the Rose Parade after spending two years appearing in dozens of local and regional parades, including the Salinas Rodeo Parade, and filing an extensive written application. Barbara Savery, the parade group’s marshal, believes that Mid-Valley was invited to the Rose Parade because of its commitment to volunteer work.
“I have been in many horse-related and other organizations, but I love belonging to Backcountry Horsemen because they do something of value that makes me proud,” said Savery. “They keep trails open, they help the Forest Service run campgrounds, they run summer camps where kids can learn to ride and pack and they don’t charge for any of it. Backcountry people do something. I love that.”
Mid-Valley Unit is a division of Backcountry Horsemen of California, a 501(c)(3) organization which was formed in 1981 as the High Sierra Stock Users Association and which merged with several other western states organizations in 1986 to form Backcountry Horsemen of America. The goals of the national, state and local Backcountry organizations such as Mid-Valley Unit include maintaining and improving backcountry trails, promoting their use by all users, and advocating good trail manners. As of 2014, the most recent year for which records are available, the national Backcountry organization donated $14,419,615 in man hours to support trail improvement and maintenance. As of 2013, the California organization donated $4,480,292 in man hours; and Mid-Valley Unit donated $459,892 in man hours. Twenty-eight states now have Backcountry organizations and the national membership exceeds 13,300 hardworking members.
Mid-Valley contributes heavily to this volunteer effort. In 2016, Mid-Valley agreed to host the overnight camp at Clark’s Fork, relieving the Forest Service of the need to allocate funds and personnel to that camp and eliminating the need for user fees. This year it also developed overnight campsites at Kennedy Meadows which are open to all users; these campsites include tables, fire rings, high lines and corrals. Mid-Valley is also active at the urban interface: it has been a key partner in the “9-2-99” project in Modesto, which involves the restoration of the Tuolumne River, development of a trail system along the river and the clean-up of Gateway Park. Mid-Valley pays for these services with volunteer hours and funds raised by selling calendars, holding raffles and generous donations from members and friends.
The 128th Rose Parade will be held on Monday, Jan. 2. It is a longstanding tradition that the Rose Parade is never held on Sunday. Serpa will be heading for Pasadena right after Christmas. He will participate in Equestfest, a live presentation which will be broadcast on RFD-TV and which showcases the equestrian entries in the Rose Parade, on Dec. 30. New Year’s Day will be spent preparing for the Rose Parade. On New Year’s Eve he plans to ride from the L.A. Equestrian Center, where he will be staying, to the iconic Hollywood sign.
“People dream of being in the Rose Parade all their lives,” commented Savery. “We are going to make the most of it.”