Festival of Balloons Co-Grand Marshals Announced

Jessica Samuels
Courtesy photo

The 2019 Festival of Balloons Committee announced the selection of space explorers and Co-Grand Marshals Jessica Samuels and Mark Swain.

This year’s parade theme is “To The Moon and Beyond: 50 Years of Exploring America’s Freedom.”

As a resident of South Pasadena for over a decade, Jessica Samuels has also been a champion and pioneer for the continuing endeavors of our nation’s space program. After assisting with development and rocket engine testing in her early career, she was inspired to combine the areas of both space and science and pursue a career at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Over the past 18 years, she has served in various spacecraft development, mission implementation, and laboratory management roles. Her career has ranged from test, design, and operation of JPL’s robotic exploration of the surface of Mars, as well as leadership of the vast array of teams that make it all come together.

In addition to her professional successes, Jessica has spent the last several years supporting the community where she lives with her husband Bryan and two children. Phoebe, 5, and Amelia, 8, attend Arroyo Vista Elementary, where Jessica volunteers her time and expertise to several different programs. She serves as a Girl Scout leader where for the past four years she has brought elements of STEM and her engineering background to help inspire a next generation of explorers.

Mark Swain
Courtesy photo

Dr. Mark Swain, who received his Ph.D. in Physics and Astronomy from the University of Rochester in 1996, is a Scientist and Supervisor for the Exoplanet Discovery and Science Group at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.  An exoplanet is a planet which orbits a star outside the solar system. He is one of the pioneers of detecting molecules in exoplanet atmospheres using near infrared spectroscopy and he has extensive experience in infrared instrumentation.

His current research interests include comparative exoplanetology and the characterization of potentially habitable worlds. He has been married to Melanie for 29 years who works as a programmer for astrophysics databases at IPAC/Caltech. They have two children, a 17-year-old son and a 21-year-old daughter.

The July 4 event begins at 10:30 a.m. at the library, 1100 Oxley St. with the parade beginning around 11 a.m. on Mission St., from Diamond Ave. to Garfield Park. Come wearing some type of balloon adornment. Prizes are awarded. It is recommended to bring sunscreen and water bottles. Each child needs to be accompanied by an adult. Pre-registration required at southpasadenaca.gov/home/showdocument?id=17662.