4th of July’s ‘Festival of Balloons’ on Hold | COVID-19 Timeline Yields Uncertainty for Annual Event

South Pasadena’s Community Service Director Sheila Pautsch says the city wants to hold the Festival of Balloon's parade and fireworks show on the 4th of July but as a result of the novel coronavirus no determination can be made if it will be held

FILE PHOTO: Eric Fabbro | SouthPasadenan.com News | 4th of July Parade, Festival of Balloons 2019. Lauren Kafkaloff - 1996 Jag, Driver/Owner Matthew Crow with Odom Stamps

With life seemingly on hold – as California Governor Gavin Newsom orders residents to stay at home except to buy food, care for relatives and friends and go to “essential” jobs during the novel coronavirus outbreak – thousands of spring and summer events are falling by the wayside.

Schools have shut their doors while focusing on distance learning, canceling a multitude of events at local campuses. Youth activities like Little League Baseball and Softball and AYSO have been place on hold. Trails, tennis courts and playgrounds at local parks have closed down. The South Pasadena Educational Foundation’s annual Parti Gras, one of the bigger city spring events – a festive fundraiser slated for May at Arroyo Seco Golf Course featuring food from local restaurants, a silent and live auction and dancing long into the night – has been postponed as far back as the fall.

Another big bash, the Festival of Balloons 4th of July – a full day complete with a pancake breakfast, opening ceremonies on the footsteps of the local library community room, an old fashioned parade, games and activities in Garfield Park and a lively fireworks show at South Pasadena High – is currently in a holding pattern.

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“The city has not looked that far ahead,” explained Sheila Pautsch, South Pasadena community service director. “The city will wait for the governor’s order to be lifted or modified regarding large events. The city would love to continue the Festival of Balloon’s parade and fireworks show but these times are so uncertain. It is a fluid situation and no determination can be made just yet.”

California is among more than half the states in the country that have imposed lockdown measures restricting social contact and large gatherings while suspending the operations of thousands of businesses, forcing cancelations of events and disrupting the lives of millions.

Pautsch’s involvement in the Festival of Balloons is to oversee the entire event, ensuring the city is safe from liability and the committee has what it needs to make the parade and fireworks show a success.

Following the governor’s order, the City of South Pasadena has cancelled all commission and committee meetings, meaning Festival of Balloons’ organizers have not met since March 12. If the planning committee is given the green line to meet, questions remains if there’s enough time to make it happen. April’s meeting has been called off on account of the virus. The earliest volunteers will be able to get back together to plan it is May, leaving less than two months before Independence Day rolls around.   

“I am sure it will be very disappointing to the community,” said Pautsch if the event is force to be cancelled. “The parade and fireworks show take many months of planning by a group of awesome volunteers. Though, many things may be done at home by committee members, some are not that easy, much like the poster contest by our 5th graders and booking certain things that may need deposits. The risk of losing money on non-refundable deposits can drain the funding for the events.”

On the upside, should the city pull it off, Pautsch anticipates nothing but a memorable celebration. “It might be a great way to have the community together again and celebrate being outside and standing as one community,” she said.