South Pasadena’s five public schools, along with Holy Family, a premiere private institution in the city, have all earned plenty of academic achievements over the years, but they’re about to receive, perhaps, their most memorable on the Fourth of July.
With thousands looking on, the local campuses will be recognized as this year’s grand marshal during South Pasadena’s Independence Day Festival of Balloons festivities.
“Our Schools – Pride of South Pasadena” will be theme for a daylong of fun, starting with the Kiwanis Pancake Breakfast at the fire station starting at 7 a.m., followed by the day’s opening ceremony at 10:30 a.m. on the steps of the library community room, the kid-friendly parade down Mission Street at 11 a.m., games in activities in Garfield Park at noon and the always popular fireworks show at the local high school at 9 p.m.
Serving as the grand marshal with thousands of residents looking on is “a really big deal,” stressed Joe Payne, the Festival of Balloon’s Parade Chair.
“There’s something about South Pasadena that makes it a constant draw for incoming families to move into town, and that is the quality of our schools,” said Payne. “We have always scored very high on statewide testing, and our (Festival of Balloons) committee felt this was a good year to recognize them for their impact in our community.”
Arroyo Vista, Marengo, and Monterey Hills elementary schools along with South Pasadena Middle School and South Pasadena High School have all earned the state’s highest honors over the years.
The yet to be named 2017-18 Teacher of the Year in the South Pasadena Unified School District will ride in the 4th of July Parade, waving to the crowd likely aboard a classic Model A Ford.
“We’re proud to honor them,” said Payne of the school district’s high honor. “It’s a huge part of our city.”
He praised Holy Family as one of the top private schools in the state. “You don’t have a really strong school district, private or public, unless you have dedicated teachers,” insisted Payne, a former South Pasadena police Chief, who also handles security during the Festival of Balloons. “The teachers in the South Pasadena Unified School District and Holy Family are among the best. Many of them live here in our community and identify so well with our kids. We think it’s a really good time to recognize their contributions in the city.”
Along with his chores as the parade and security chair, Payne joins his wife every year in hanging theme posters on light standards and poles created by 5th graders up and down the parade route. With Crayons in hand, the students research the theme and draw their thoughts on paper. “With the schools as the grand marshal, it will be interesting to see what they come up with,” said Payne, explaining that 150-200 posters will go up between Meridian Street and Fair Oaks Avenue on Mission Street around the end of May. “The posters from the kids are a big part of the Festival of Balloons. They really identify with the parade and come up with some great ideas. The creativity is endless. They will do a great, great job with this theme.”
A core group of about a dozen volunteers meet monthly on the last Wednesday of the month at 7:30 p.m. inside the City Council Chambers to discuss plans for the upcoming parade. About 100 others lend a hand, helping any way they can, on the 4th of July.
“It’s a well-oiled machine,” said Rosemary Whitney, the Festival of Balloons’ chair. “Everyone knows and does their job. It all comes together for a great day in our city.”