Over the years, when the citizens of Orange celebrated occasions with a parade, the route would include the Plaza and its spoke streets. Themes and sponsoring groups would vary. Patriotic events, holidays, spotlighting local industry and business, and special events all provided impetus for parades.
On April 20, 1909 the Merchants and Manufacturers Association of Orange hosted an Auto Excursion, with automobiles circumventing the Plaza, and parking for admiring examination.
Peace Parade and Program
At the time of World War I, Orange residents supported the war effort with many Liberty Bond rallies. One of the bond parades at the Plaza was filmed and featured the movie star Mary Miles Minter, the war tank "Victory" and Company 76. A Peace Parade and Program for returning soldiers and sailors was held on Christmas Day 1918 in the Plaza.
Flower Show and Parade
In contrast to and relief from the war news, the Woman's Club of Orange sponsored a Flower Show and Parade in April 1917. It was enthusiastically greeted by local and nearby residents, and featured a wonderful parade with flower-bedecked floats and automobiles, troops of horsemen, and all the schoolchildren of Orange.
Queen Valencia Pageant
The first Queen Valencia Pageant was held in Plaza Square May 3 to 4, 1927. The Chamber of Commerce sponsored the event. It celebrated the success of the local citrus industry and the start of the Valencia orange harvest. Music, dancing and the crowning of Queen Valencia were the primary activities. Students from Orange Union High School provided talent, music, the Queen's throne and lineup of beauty contestants. The last year for this event was 1930.
The May Festival began in 1933. Celebrating the Valencia orange harvest, the festival and parade would become an Orange tradition, often including other events, such as the dedication of the new Santa Fe Depot in 1938. The Orange Community Chamber of Commerce sponsored the event each year aided by local businesses, service organizations and youth groups.
In 1967, the Jaycees took over management of the May Festival from the Chamber of Commerce. The parade route included Chapman Avenue and Glassell Street, circling the Plaza. Floats, bands, drill teams, majorettes, color guards, horses and automobiles would make up the parade.
The May Festival was alternately called the Orange Festival and the Harvest Festival, and for a period of time this event took place in September. In 1947, the Harvest Festival was celebrated in September, and included a queen and her court, marching bands, and floats. Orange High School graduate Norma Christopher, Queen of the 1947 Pasadena Tournament of Roses, crowned the Harvest Queen.
The parade concluded with the Eltiste Calliope. The Calliope was at the end of all of the parades in Orange County for many years. Michael Eltiste established his farm implements business on North Glassell in Orange in 1909, and provided floats and decorated vehicles for many parades over the years.
Armistice Day Parade
The Armistice Day Parade was a countywide event held November 11. The parade location rotated among the cities. Orange hosted the parade in 1928. Many of the floats from Orange won prizes over the years. In 1927, the Chamber of Commerce won first prize in the Armistice Day Parade held in Fullerton.
Orange County Fair
The Orange County Fair went through a number of versions and locations. Santa Ana, Anaheim, and Huntington Beach provided locations before settling in 1949 at the present site, the former Santa Ana Army Air Base. From 1926-1929, the Orange County Fairgrounds were located around West Chapman and State College, near where the Orange Drive-In Theater would later be situated. Floats created by City of Orange businesses and organizations could be seen traveling to the various parades for this event.
Orange Centennial and Jubilee
The City of Orange Centennial in 1988 was celebrated throughout the year and included a parade as part of the festivities. Orange also celebrated its Golden Jubilee in 1938.
Gogh Van Orange
Gogh Van Orange, a festival of art and music, began in 1995. It was sponsored by the Orange Chamber of Commerce and presented by the Orange County Register. Recreating a feeling of the 1940s, it featured a juried art competition, big band music from the '40s, a swing dance contest, student art show, chalk street painting, and an antique car display. In 1999 this event left the Plaza and moved to the Stadium Promenade.
Paint the Towne and ArtWalk
Other events promoting art in the community include Paint the Towne and ArtWalk. Paint the Towne, a plein air art competition, started in 2000 and artists were often in the Plaza capturing views that interested them on canvas. The concluding displays, festivities and awards were held at Santa Fe Depot Park.
ArtWalk also began in 2000. This features walking and shuttle service to open house at Old Towne galleries on selected Thursday evenings.
Day Before Thanksgiving Parade
KLOS 95.5 FM radio personalities Mark and Brian held their Day Before Thanksgiving Parade at the Plaza in 1995. The event drew a crowd of over 15,000 people, and included floats, Tai the elephant, a turkey car, the Cerritos High School Band, bikers, and various floats.
The 1999 Mark and Brian Halloween Parade was held at the Old Towne Orange Plaza and drew an estimated 8,000 people.
Old Towne Antique Fair
Every day is an antique event in the Old Towne area, but since 1978 the downtown merchants have hosted an antique fair in February. The Downtown Orange Business and Professional Association sponsor the Old Towne Antique Fair. This annual event, held around the Presidents Day weekend, offers music, antique appraisers and restorers, and, of course, antiques.