“I am overwhelmed and humbled” was the reaction of Riverside’s Rey Navarro when told by the Friends of the Fourth that he had been chosen to be the grand marshal of Riverside’s annual Independence Day Parade.

It was an easy choice to recognize someone who has been a mainstay of the parade, with his contingent of sports cars that seems to grown in numbers each year.

Navarro said he first became involved in 1975 when Riverside celebrated its centennial. The parade committee was in search of cars and Navarro was the go-to person. Since that time Navarro and his car-enthusiast friends have always been there in Riverside’s July 4 parades.

Navarro says his longstanding interest in sports cars started in earnest when he made his first purchase, a 1927 Whippet, a vehicle that was only made for three years. He then purchased a 1934 Ford.

“I loved that car,” he said.

He then moved on to MGs, and it wasn’t long before he read an article about the formation of an MG club. The club was formed and Navarro became an active member and even the club’s president. He says the members “become like family” and watch out for each other.

It has given him the opportunity to race his cars all around the country, including New York, Virginia and Wisconsin to name a few places.

On July 4, 2012 Navarro will once again be in the Riverside parade and the contingent of MGs will have grown from two cars in 1975 to more than 50 cars, thanks to his efforts. As usual, the group will meet at the Navarro home for a get-together hosted by Rey and his wife, Lupe.

While Lupe is not the car enthusiast that her husband is, she does enjoying driving one of the sports cars and is usually a driver in the parade. The couple has six children who share their father’s interest but nowhere near his enthusiasm.

Navarro, a long-time Riversider, says he never did the work on the parades for recognition, but as a way of saying thank you to this country for the opportunity to raise his children here. You will see Rey in the parade and possibly Lupe, but his car will say “Grand Marshal,” a title well-earned and deserved.