4th of July in South Pasadena | A Message from the ‘Festival of Balloons’ Chair

With artwork strung up and down Mission Street and Fair Oaks Avenue, South Pasadena is celebrating the “Festival of Art” this year. Facing the harsh impacts of the coronavirus, Joe Payne, a longtime Festival volunteer, says “we are all in this together” and certainly "Better Together - Six Feet Apart" – the Independence Day theme in town in 2020.

FILE PHOTO: Bill Glazier | SouthPasadenan.com News | Joe Payne, parade chair for the Festival Balloons’

By Joe Payne, Festival of Balloons Chair

As we approach another Independence Day celebration across our nation we should pause to remember how we, as Americans, came together and gained our independence. Americans fought for a common ideal and created a more perfect union. Americans, and of course, the whole world is now fighting a new enemy, and we will again prevail.

When we decided this year to cancel our Festival of Balloons parade and fireworks show, we knew it was the right thing to do. It was not an easy choice after 35 years of tradition. We were holding out hope that after four months of social distancing, working from home, wearing facial coverings, and avoiding crowds, the summer heat and humidity would force this enemy into submission. We soon realized this would not be the case, and the fight rages on.

Our committee’s last meeting was in early March, just before society went into a lockdown. We had sent out an urgent appeal to parade participants and civic groups to come to the meeting, to volunteer their time and creativity. Most members of our committee have organized the Festival of Balloons for decades and we needed the fresh ideas and enthusiasm that so many in our community have to offer.

More than 30 community members came to the meeting and many more asked how they could help. We adopted a theme, “Volunteers, Better Together, that fully embraced what our community is all about. Consider all of the volunteer organizations that come together, year after year, to make South Pasadena such a great city in which to live, work, or visit: The Tournament of Roses, with the oldest self-built float in the Rose Parade, Little League baseball and softball, American Youth Soccer, boy and girl scouts, faith-based groups, reserve police officers and auxiliary firefighters…the list goes on and on.

I was asked what I was going to do this July Fourth. It is the first time in 30 years that I have not worked this day, either as a police officer, a committee member, or both. This is not the way I planned it! Quite clearly, Americans across our nation have had their plans disrupted. Celebrating our independence, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is an easy thing to do. Keeping our independence, however, takes some effort.

Let us remember America’s “Greatest Generation,” a generation that prevailed through pandemic, depression, and war. They are now among the most at risk, so please protect them. Take precautions, social-distance, wear a face covering when in public, and please listen to the experts and heed their advice. We are all in this together and certainly “Better Together”. Happy Fourth of July, South Pasadena!