Fun & Freedom on 4th

South Pasadena’s 38th annual July 4th Festival of Balloons Parade makes its way along Mission Street on Thursday. Police estimated some 1,000 residents turned out to watch or march in the festivities, enjoying sunny skies and temperatures in the 70s as they celebrated America’s 243rd birthday, with fireworks planned for Thursday night. Photo by Henk Friezer

From pancakes to a parade, from flags to floats to fireworks, it was a full day of Fourth of July festivities in South Pasadena on Thursday, as thousands took part in a sunrise-to-sunset celebration of America’s 243rd birthday.

And, oh, yes, there were also balloons – lots and lots of balloons. It was, after all, South Pas’ 38th annual July 4 “Festival of Balloons” event.

Starting off the day was the annual Kiwanis Club pancake breakfast, held at the South Pasadena Fire Station – where several hundred residents gathered as early as 7 a.m. and, before it wrapped up around 11, consumed more than 800 cups of coffee, stacks of hot cakes, scads of sausages and who knows how many gallons of orange juice and maple syrup.

South Pasadena’s Assembly Member, Chris Holden, would not have missed it for the world – he even flew in from Sacramento to flip pancakes before heading off to other events around his district.

“I always like to start my Fourth of July with flipping pancakes in South Pasadena,” Holden said. “This is my sixth year participating in the pancake breakfast. I appreciate being invited every year, and coming here and being part of the community makes me feel great.’’

For the 27 years Chief Paul Riddle has been part of the South Pasadena Fire Department, he has enjoyed participating in the pancake breakfast. In addition to opening its doors to the community, the station also puts various fire trucks on display so kids and families can see them up close and take pictures.

“This is one of the best days to work here,” Riddle said. “We enjoy opening up our fire station so that people can break bread in here and kick off the holiday. We are also going to be in the parade and at tonight’s fireworks show to make sure that everything goes smoothly.’’

In addition to the familiar faces seen year after year at the popular breakfast event, there were also newcomers such as the Lucero family, who moved to South Pasadena last year.

“Our boy really likes trucks, and we thought it would be fun to have breakfast at a fire station,” said Brittany Lucero, who came with husband Michael and their 1½- year-old son, Talon.

Afterward, the opening ceremony for the parade along Mission Street was held on the lawn of the South Pasadena Library Community Room. It included a performance of the national anthem by the South Pasadena High School Minuteman Band and the announcement of the poster contest winners.

The theme for this year’s event was “To the Moon and Beyond: 50 Years of Exploring America’s Freedom” – honoring the anniversary of Apollo 11’s journey to the moon.

Jim Anderson, vice chair of the Festival of Balloons Committee, welcomed the crowd and introduced the various dignitaries and speakers, including South Pasadena Mayor Marina Khubesrian, various City Council members and this year’s parade Grand Marshals – Jessica Samuels and Martin Swayne from NASA’s JPL Space Program.

The parade featured local groups and community members who waved to the crowd as they rode past in vintage automobiles or walked along handing out balloons, candy and other prizes.

Rep. Judy Chu was on hand, as was City Treasurer Gary Pia, Police Chief Joe Ortiz, Mayor Pro Tem Bob Joe, City Manager Stephanie DeWolfe, State Senator Anthony Portantino, and many more.

Among the dozens of groups and businesses represented were the South Pasadena Educational Foundation (SPEF), the Board of Education, the South Pasadena Arts Council (SPARC), the Rotary Club, the Arroyo Seco Stables and the newly arrived Ace Hardware.

And there were, of course, Boys Scouts and Cub Scouts, Girl Scouts and Brownies, school groups across all grades, plus all manner of youth organizations.

You name it, they were there.

“We come to the parade every year,” said Taylor Cleveland, who came with her husband and children. “One of the highlights from this year’s parade was the Stratford Wives ensemble. I loved seeing all of the ladies wearing their costumes, wigs and dancing. We enjoy how festive it is. Everybody comes out to celebrate and support — it feels like a true American community, and that’s what’s so great about South Pasadena.”

Greg Garber, who attended last year’s parade, came down to watch his 3-year-old daughter march in the parade with her preschool, Oneonta Cooperative Nursery School.

“This is such a heartwarming event for the community to pull together,” he said. “This really is a throwback here — not every town has parades anymore.’’

In addition to parade regulars, there were also some first-timers such as Lindsay and Robert Morales, who brought their 3-year-old son, Jackson, to see the fire trucks. 

“We didn’t really know what to expect, but we have loved every minute of it,” Lindsay Morales  said. “Our son loves fire trucks and police cars, so we came down from our home in west Pasadena so that he could see them.”

Post-parade festivities took place at Garfield Park, where families and friends relaxed on the grass, participated in fun activities such as potato-sack racing, and enjoyed a variety of pizza, burgers, hot dogs, Chinese food and Mexican food served by Boy Scout Troops 7 and 139, as well as by Vecinos de South Pasadena, a Latino cultural organization, and the South Pasadena Chinese-American Club.

“We’re serving pizza, watermelon, chips and sodas,” said Michael Chan, a member of Boy Scout Troop 139. “The food here is very good and this is a special day — we just want to make sure that everybody has a great time.”

F.J. Pratt, scout master of Troop 7, has enjoyed participating in the Garfield Park festivities with the members of his troop — who range from new scouts to soon-to-be Eagle Scouts — for close to a decade.

“It’s been a longstanding Troop 7 tradition to sell hamburgers and hot dogs here after the parade, and this year we sold out about a half hour too early,” Pratt said. “All the funds go to our troop to pay for equipment costs, camping gear and other necessities. I think the festivities and the parade sum up what South Pasadena is all about — it’s about community, a celebration of the great place we live, a great country, and then you cap it off with fireworks. You can’t ask for anything better.”

Sitting off to one side, professional illustrator Jimi Martinez painted pictures of the food booths in order to capture the moment. A lifelong resident of South Pasadena, Martinez often paints various spots in town, ranging from historical buildings to local parks.

“I enjoy doing this as a hobby, and I sometimes give away my paintings when people ask for them,” Martinez said. “Fourth of July is a stronghold in this town — it solidifies the kinship.’’

To conclude the fun-filled day of celebrations, South Pasadena High School was scheduled to host its annual fireworks show at 9 p.m. Lindy Yuen, who is on the Festival of Balloons Committee, spent the day selling tickets for the show, which is one of the most highly anticipated events of the year.

“I love that the community comes together for it,” she said. “We may not see everyone all the time, but this is the one day of the year that families all come out and spend the day together and celebrate our nation’s independence. It’s a South Pasadena tradition.”

South Pasadena High School 4th of July Fireworks Show


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