Every July 4 at 9 p.m., I take a chair to the front lawn and watch fireworks explode over the trees from the high school down the street. I can usually hear the music, and the big boomers always put on a wonderful display.
I then go into the backyard and feel the earth shake from the fireworks at the Rose Bowl, and I can hear explosions all through the night serenading me from San Marino to Alhambra and beyond.
It has been one of my favorite hours of the year since I moved to South Pasadena in 1996.
I sometimes start the day at the pancake breakfast at the local firehouse, and afterward I’ve been known to watch the balloon festival. What’s most fun is watching the children — which is really what the parade is all about.
Sorry, South Pasadena. We’re going to have to hit pause, just as we have since mid-March.
The pandemic has rained on another parade.
Mayor Bob Joe has described this year’s festivities as being held in “unprecedented times,” and that fits. No pancakes. No parade. No picnics in the park and no fireworks. Parks are open, but shelters and playgrounds are still closed. So there will be no rentals for group gatherings.
“During this Independence Day, I would like to ask our community to remember our Fourth of July Festival of Balloons and all the great times we have had celebrating it over the last 39 years,” Joe said. “Due to these unprecedented times, we will not be able to conduct our community’s celebration as traditionally done.
“During this Independence Day, I would also like to take a moment to remind our community of the freedoms we have and especially during these times, this is now more meaningful than ever,” the mayor added. “We, as a community, have shown resiliency and that will always be one of the best attributes our community has.”
The city, along with the Chamber of Commerce, Transition South Pasadena, SPARC and the Festival of Balloons committee, is stepping in to organize a July Fourth Festival of Art. Transition South Pasadena is a newly formed group that would like to see people create less waste and be more environmentally friendly.
The theme of the celebration is “Better together, 6 feet apart,” and it is hoped that city residents can show their civic pride by participating in the event.
Artwork will be placed along Mission Street and Fair Oaks Avenue in hopes of getting people to stroll along the shops and to dine out in town. Trees will be decorated by the city, and store owners will either be decorating their windows or having them painted by artists through SPARC, the South Pasadena Arts Council.
The artwork, by anyone who lives in South Pasadena and who is from 5 years old on up, will remain up until July 10.
“It is a small way to share hometown pride during these uncertain times and to support local business,” said Sheila Pautsch, the city’s community services director.
Clara Richards has lived in South Pasadena for 60 years, and for her, certain things never change — even for a pandemic.
One of those things is memories. Her husband, Amedee “Dick” Richards Jr., was a two-time mayor of South Pasadena, and she and he were named citizens of the year and honored in the balloon parade.
“The Fourth of July in South Pasadena is homegrown,” the 89-year-old Richards said. “Its roots are in the city people who get together and decided we were going to have a parade and there was the pancake breakfast, picnics and then the fireworks.
“Kids liked the day, too,” she added. “It wasn’t just for adults.”
Richards emphasized that the pandemic can never erase what for her is the real meaning of the holiday. It is — to her — a patriotic day of pride and reflection.
“I look at all the people who came before and who worked to get me where I am today, and who helped my children get to where they are today,” Richards said. “I think about the people who sacrificed to make me what I am. I am always amazed at the freedoms we have.
“I have a lot to be thankful for my independence,” she said.
So be thankful for our freedom and work to make a more perfect country.
Have a picnic in your backyard or on your back porch.
Go to the Arts Festival.
And remember, stay 6 feet apart and wear a mask.
They Became Citizens, and It Was ‘Just Perfect’
Jaklin Noshadian and her entire family became Yankee Doodle Dandies within a week of each other, and for her mother, it was literally a dream come true.
“She told me that she dreamed of being an American citizen,” Jaklin, a pharmacy technician at iconic Fair Oaks Pharmacy, said of her mother, Azita.
Azita, who emigrated from Iran with her husband, Albert, and daughters Jaklin, 30, and Katrin, 26, nearly six years ago, said that she had always loved the American flag.
When she and her daughters had their swearing-in June 18, she was handed a cherished memento — a miniature American flag.
“It was like they wanted to keep the family together every step of the way,” Jaklin said. “We had our test the same day, and everyone but my dad got sworn in at the same time. My dad was sworn in the week before.”
The family, which lives in Glendale, had to forgo the traditional large naturalization ceremony at the convention center because of restrictions to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The Noshadians waited in individual lines, and then repeated the “oath of allegiance” to an agent before being handed a packet of information, which contained a letter from the president, voter registration forms, other citizenship information — and the flag.
“It was just perfect,” Jaklin said of the ceremony, which was held at a federal building in downtown Los Angeles.
The family members all passed their tests in February, but the ceremonies were delayed because of shutdowns caused by the pandemic.
Jaklin said her mother, 55, and father, 60, are not as fluent in English, and studied by using YouTube videos. She said her mother was particularly worried about passing the test. The two daughters studied from the material provided by the immigration service.
Each member of the family had no mistakes on their test, which includes an interview, reading and writing English, and an American history and civics test.
The family celebrated passing their citizenship tests by going out to eat, but crowd guidelines caused them to bring food to their home and celebrate after the swearing-in ceremony.
“It was really very satisfying,” Jaklin said of the ceremony. “We went out the door and each of us had a nice feeling.”
Abrera Wraps Up Distinguished American Ballet Theatre Career
The COVID-19 pandemic prevented Stella Abrera, who spent most of her childhood years in South Pasadena, from having her farewell performance on June 13 with the American Ballet Theatre at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City.
The performance would have provided a star-turn ending to a 24-year career with ABT. The principal dancer, who left South Pasadena High School in her junior year to try out for the company, would have had the title role of “Giselle,” but the pandemic halted all such performances.
“I always thought my heart would break on this day, and it’s true, it does ache, but it’s because my heart is so full — it’s bursting with love and gratitude for everyone who had made this twisty, exhilarating colorful journey I’ve been on, one of which dreams are made,” the 42-year-old Abrera wrote in an Instagram post on June 15. “ABT will forever be in my heart — thank you and farewell.”
The youngest of five children, Abrera moved with her family from the Philippines to South Pasadena when she was 4. A year later, she took her first ballet class and her mother bought her ballet shoes from Alice McIntosh, who owns the Red Shoes, now located on Mission Street.
Abrera worked there as a teenager before moving to New York in 1996, where, at 17, she joined the corps de ballet after being an apprentice for the classical ballet company. Five years later, she was promoted as a soloist.
After recovering from a complex back injury that kept her off the stage for two years — and also after debuting in the title role of “Giselle” — she later became the first Filipina-American to be ABT’s principal dancer, the highest rank of the elite ballet company.
McIntosh said she and several of her friends had hoped to go to New York City to see Abrera’s final performance. She said she still keeps in touch with her longtime friend.
“I can’t even imagine seeing ABT without Stella Abrera,” McIntosh said. “Stella is unassuming and one of the sweetest and kindest people I have ever met. She is full of integrity.”
Earlier this year, Abrera was named artistic director for Kaatsbaan, a cultural park for dance in Tivoli, New York. As artistic director, Abrera’s position will include working with artists on their projects. She will teach and coach dancers and also work with the Pro-Studio/Stella Abrera program that launched last year.
She said she still remembers her days growing up in South Pasadena.
“When we were kids, we used to cross our fingers and make a wish when we went through the tunnels on the 110 going to and from Los Angeles to Pasadena,” Abrera recalled in an interview earlier this year. “I always wished that I could join ABT.
“It’s very rare that something happens like what happened to me,” she added. “Imagine the millions of ballet students there are, and there are 90 spots in ABT.”