After a two-year absence, the Mad Hatter is back to celebrate the 4th of July with a festival at Vallejo’s waterfront.
The festival, pinned for five years between Vallejo’s 4th of July parade and the fireworks, aims to become a place to have a good time after the parade and possibly to watch the fireworks. Perhaps no one is more thrilled — despite the hard work behind the event — than Mad Hatter producer Frank Malifrando.
“Sometimes I’ve really enjoyed the free time, because there’s so much work to do,” Malifrando said with a laugh.
The waterfront celebration attracts large crowds enjoying the favorite holiday. This is a family-friendly afternoon and evening, with guests strolling through the waterfront entertaining park and having photo ops with the Mad Hatter mascot and floats parades heading for the field. The festival hosts two food courts, tent dining rooms, and cultural performances: Mexican, Filipino, and African drummers/dancers, and live music.
There is a Hatter’s Beer & Wine Pub, engaging kite displays, community stalls, craft, clothing and jewelry vendors as well as children’s activities. Dining options include Mexican, Hawaiian, Ceviche, Salvadoran, plus BBQ favorites of ribs, chicken, hot links and hot dogs. There will also be shaved ice, ice cream, popcorn, juices and smoothies.
Train rides for children, a parade of maritime dogs, classic cars and an interactive reptile complex are also on the program.
“When I started doing this event a few years ago, I saw all these people going downtown after the parade, but doing nothing,” Malifrando said. “I wanted to create a county fair type atmosphere, but the main thing was to entertain people. I wanted to give people things to watch and talk about. I wanted to start a good memory for them that would eventually be shared on social media.
Malifrando brought back the Mad Hatter Christmas Parade in 2021, learning a few things about organizing a parade in the age of the pandemic.
“Well, things are more expensive now,” Malifrando said. “But I learned that the crowd wants out. I didn’t know if we would have large crowds for a while after the pandemic. But it seems people feel comfortable going out.
According to Malifrando, Vallejo is one of the few towns to host a festival near the 4th of July fireworks and the waterfront grounds are spacious enough to make it a very special site overlooking the strait of Mare Island. The parade, which begins at 10 a.m. on Broadway and Tennessee streets, eventually ends at the water’s edge. Malifrando wants to give people something to do if they want to wait in the area until the fireworks display later that night.
Its goal is to entertain in about three hours.
“I think a lot of people have a three hour limit,” the Mad Hatter producer said. “Three hours is about enough if you have enough distractions for them before they get exhausted and want to leave. We get a crowd at the start, a parade crowd, and then the fireworks crowd. The main thing is to have something for everyone and make it enjoyable for everyone.
The event starts at 11 a.m. at the Barbara Kondylis Marina Green (Vallejo waterfront).