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Fourth Family

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Russ and Scott Murfey strike a patriotic pose in the headquarters of their real-estate development and building firm, the Murfey Company.
(COREY LEVITAN)

Russ Murfey and his older brother, Scott, click through photos of previous Bird Rock Fourth of July parades on the wall monitor in their conference room at the Murfey Company, the real-estate development and building firm they co-founded in 2009.

“Check Dad out,” says Scott, 42. “How old is he in that outfit?”

George John Murfey, an attorney everyone knew as “Buddy,” is wearing a flag suit in the 1982 photo.

“He’s got a French cuff on underneath,” adds Russ, 39. “That’s the nicest shirt he owned.”

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Back in 1980, Buddy and his wife, a schoolteacher named Barbara, co-founded the Bird Rock Fourth of July Parade with Candace and Brian King, Cinty and Wallace Springstead, and other neighbors. And for the brothers, who have run it since 2015, keeping it alive means keeping the memory of their parents alive. (The Murfeys died in a 2003 plane crash while visiting friends in Idaho.)

“I remember our dad would get this stereo and had to have extension cords running through the whole house so he could have this bar on the front lawn with his blender and a stereo,” Scott says.

Russ adds that his mother was pregnant with him during the first parade, which makes him “intertwined with this thing on every level.”

Although its crowd has swelled over 40 years from a couple of dozen neighbors to more than 2,000 people from all over San Diego, the parade still manages to project a small-town feel. For instance, the float judges perform their duty — naming a winner who gets to pick next year’s parade theme — from folding chairs on residents’ lawns. And these days, the extension cord everyone plugs into belongs to longtime participant Otis Benson.

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“Even If we did nothing, I still think it would happen,” Russ says. “I think people would still build stuff and show up.”

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A young Russ Murfey (in wagon) and older brother, Scott Murfey (in front with stick), during the 1982 Bird Rock Fourth of July Parade. Also pictured are their parents, Barbara and Buddy, who helped found the community tradition in 1980.
(COURTESY)

Every year, the parade begins on the corner of Beaumont Avenue and Camino de la Costa, then marches north along Beaumont for two blocks before terminating in the parking lot of La Jolla Methodist Church, 6063 La Jolla Blvd.

“All you have to do is make sure your float can go about 600 feet before falling apart,” Russ explains, noting that his favorite parade year was when there was a circus theme and he and Russ were dressed as lions in a cage.

The brothers continue clicking through photos, laughing about the goats, the ponies and the rickety floats of parades past, built to resemble elephants, battleships and objects that are anyone’s guess. (Parade rules have always dictated that floats be homemade and not motorized.)

The start time is 10 a.m. sharp, regardless of how ready the 20 or so floats are.

“As kids, we’d be wrapping our bikes with blue and white ribbon the morning of,” Russ recalls, “which is the same as it is now. Everyone just pulls it together, puts some tassels on at the last minute and makes it happen.”

Buddy and Barbara stayed involved for six years before handing the mantle to other residents. Russ remembers getting a call from someone on the Bird Rock Community Council in 2015 asking he and Scott to reclaim it in their family’s name with only weeks to spare.

“It’s a great tradition and we’re proud to keep it going,” Russ says. “But that first year, we had no idea what we were doing.”

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For instance, not one but two bands showed up to plug into Benson’s extension cord. “We didn’t know that there was a band that just, like, shows up every year,” Russ says, laughing. “So we had a battle of the bands, and they were both ticked off about it!”

One thing that’s changed since their parents’ days in charge is a strict adherence to City code, which has added layers of hassle and expense to the proceedings. “Because we put the Murfey stamp on it, we have to get a permit, street closures, insurance and porta-pottties,” Russ says. “We have to do this the right way.”

To cover expenditures each year, the brothers post a GoFundMe page. This year’s (gofundme.com/f/2019birdrockparade) has so far raised $1,925 of its $10,000 goal. (Last year’s ran at a $5,000 loss and the brothers were forced to make up the difference.)

This year’s parade — themed “Oh, The Places You’ll Go! A Dr. Seuss Experience!” — will feature two photo booths, a face-painter, multiple balloon artists and (hopefully) just one band.


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