City’s All Set To Go Fourth

Some scenes from last year’s July 4th Festival of Balloons parade in South Pasadena. This year’s 38th annual edition of the celebration kicks off Thursday morning with a pancake breakfast, followed by the parade and, at night, a fireworks show at South Pasadena High School. See Pages 6 and 7 of the print edition of the South Pasadena Review for a complete list of events. Photos by Dick Lem, Mikey Hirano Culross, Joseph Ruiz and Harry Yadev

Balloons will rise in the day time, fireworks will boom at night – and in between, South Pasadena’s annual Fourth of July celebration will soar in celebration of America’s birthday, as well as mark the milestone anniversary of a historic American flight.

“To the Moon and Beyond: 50 Years of Exploring America’s Freedom” will be the theme of this year’s South Pas Festival of Balloons, the city’s 38th annual Independence Day parade, which honors 243 years since the Declaration of Independence and 50 years since astronaut Neil Armstrong took one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.

“We came up with that theme based on this year being the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11 and the moon landing,” former South Pas police chief Joe Payne, the parade’s chairman for a fourth straight year, told The Review last month.

“Since we have been to the moon, we have continued to explore space, sending more probes to the moon and other planets. The desire to explore space is closely tied to the freedom the United States enjoys. So we think we have a great theme this year.”

In line with this year’s theme, the grand marshals – announced last week – are Jessica Samuels and Mark Swain, scientists from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Celebrants are advised to rise early … and arrive hungry.

The festivities kick off with the Kiwanis Club pancake breakfast, from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. at the South Pasadena Fire Station, 817 Mound Avenue ($8, kids under 6 eat free).

Then comes the 10:30 a.m. opening ceremony on the lawn of the Library Community Room lawn, 1115 El Centro St. – speeches and welcomes from local dignitaries. Then the parade itself, which kicks off at 11 a.m. and runs along Mission Street, from Diamond Avenue to Garfield Park.

A celebration at the park, with food, games and all manner of other activities, runs from noon to 3 p.m.

The fireworks get under way at 9 p.m. at South Pasadena High School, 1401 Fremont Avenue, but the gates open at 5:30 ($10, kids under 3 free).

There’s no alcohol, glass bottles or pets allowed in the stadium, and only water, no food, will be allowed on the field. Spectators also are asked to bring only rounded-bottom chairs so as not to damage to turf.

Payne said he expected some 58 groups to march this year – everybody from Boy Scouts, Cub Scouts and Girl Scouts to civic groups, neighborhood groups, Little Leaguers, soccer kids, YMCA and church groups.

“You name it, they’re there,” he said.

In addition, about a dozen classic cars are expected, and parade organizers will award prizes across a spectrum of categories, including best use of balloons, best representation of theme and best marching group.

In all, Payne said, between 4,000 and 5,000 South Pasadenans are expected to take part in some or all of the day’s festivities.

“You will see as good a fireworks show here as you will at the Rose Bowl, and you will pay just a part – and you can walk to it,” said Payne.

South Pasadena’s annual birthday party for America is always special, he stressed.

“The biggest thing is, it’s small-town USA, if you will,’’ he said. “Half the town is in the parade, the other half watches it.

“There’s nothing more Americana than a pancake breakfast, a parade and a fireworks show.’’