Americana was on display in South Pasadena Thursday as there was no shortage of red, white and blue.
With the days festivities kicking off at the South Pasadena Fire Department, the Kiwanis Club served up fresh griddle cakes and coffee.
Members of the City Council, SPPD, SPFD, and even state representatives mingled with the crowd as they enjoyed either an early morning, or midday breakfast.
State Senator Anthony Portantino and Assemblymember Chris Holden even joined in, donning their aprons to help serve up a hearty meal.
Just blocks away the day shifted into high gear with the Festival of Balloons Opening Ceremonies over on the steps of the South Pasadena Public Library.
It was much more than a day for parades, picnics and fireworks. Celebrating Fourth of July, the city’s Mayor, Dr. Marina Khubesrian, asked everyone to remember the sacrifices that were made by previous generations in the defense of freedom.
“As we know, the struggle is not over and it doesn’t come easily,” she told a large gathering, including Boy Scouts, lining the walkway leading to the South Pasadena Library Community Room during the opening ceremonies for the Festival of Balloons in South Pasadena. “So we must continue to uphold and defend the values set forth by the founders – values of democracy, liberty and individual rights.”
Khubesrian let the large crowd know this year’s parade theme, being the 50th anniversary of the moon landing, “reminds us that when we unite in support of a common goal, the sky is the limit.”
“To the Moon and Beyond: 50 Years of Exploring America’s Freedom” carried the daylong festivities following the opening ceremonies, the city’s traditional parade down Mission Street began, with the route ending at Garfield Park where games, activities and food were plentiful, and finally a dazzling fireworks show at the local high school when the sun went down.
After introducing members of the city staff, City Manager Stephanie DeWolfe exclaimed, “It’s one of the best events in Southern California.”
School Board Clerk Michele Kipke took the opportunity at the microphone, noting: “It’s such an exciting day here in South Pasadena,” before recognizing other Board of Education members. “The South Pasadena Unified School District loves being a part of this day.”
The Board of Education has faced some opposition in recent weeks by a small group of LGBTQ studies in South Pasadena classrooms, leaving Kipke the perfect opportunity to convey a message shared by others on the 5-member panel at school board meeting in late June. “As we honor our nation’s history, let us celebrate the diversity of our community and let us fight for inclusiveness for all,” she said at the podium.
Many families of students took part in the 38th annual Fourth of July Parade from Diamond Avenue east to Garfield Park on Mission Street. Kipke paid tribute to 5th grade students who designed posters that were hung up and down the parade route on light poles, adding to the patriotic atmosphere in abundance.
During the opening ceremonies, Festival of Balloons’ Committee Member Joe Payne announced the winners of the annual poster contest – Katelyn Kim, of Marengo, followed by second place finisher Naya Holden of Arroyo Vista and Aislinn Meza of Monterey Hills, taking third. They showcased their posters down the parade route and were recognized prior to the fireworks show.
Co-Grand Marshals Jessica Samuels and Mark Swain came to the microphone, recognizing America’s achievement of landing on the moon 50 years ago. “There’s still so much still ahead of us,” said Samuels. “We’re excited to see what’s ahead. There’s so much more out there, exploring the next thing.”
After assisting with development and rocket engine testing, Samuels was inspired to combine studies in both space and science to pursue a career at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
Samuels has served in various spacecraft development, mission implementation, and Laboratory management roles over the past 18 years. She had contributed her expertise, ranging from test, design, and operation of JPL’s robotic exploration of the surface of Mars, as well as in leadership roles of a vast array of teams that make it all come together.
She and her husband, Bryan, and two children, Phoebe, 5, and Amelia, 8, enjoy making South Pasadena their home.
In her Fourth of July message, Samuels encouraged young people to “stick with your studies, whatever you’re interested in and continue to work hard. Really enjoy it. You really can do anything. You all have a series of explorations ahead of you.”
Dr. Mark Swain, who received his Ph.D. in physics and astronomy from the University of Rochester in 1996, is a principle scientist and supervisor for the Exoplanet Discovery and Science Group at JPL.
A quick, fun fact, revealed by Swain following his introduction: “My family and I have moved to South Pas three times in the last 20 years,” he said. “It’s because we think this is an absolutely fabulous community. It’s really, really a great place to be part of. It’s super special for me to be here with you today helping celebrate our nation’s independence and the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing on the moon.”
In layman terms, Swain explained he studies planets around other stars, describing in laymen’s terms, “My job is to use telescopes to look into the atmosphere, try to see what those atmospheres are made of and hopefully maybe one day find planets that are habitable and maybe have signs of life around other stars.
Technically, however, 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.
Working at JPL has given him some perspective of the Apollo 11 triumph. “This was an achievement of absolutely monumental importance for human kind,” he said, recognizing in the past before encouraging the crowd to honor the future. “I’m specifically speaking to the next generation of South Pasadenans here today. This is your future, and let’s imagine together a 100 years hence on a Fourth of July day in 2119, when the people of South Pasadena are gathered together to celebrate our nation’s independence, the 150th anniversary of the moon landings and the 50th anniversary of something else. And that’s the something else you’re going to create. From my work at NASA, I can tell you these large achievements mean a contribution from everybody. Everyone can contribute to making them happen. Who is going to be visionary and inspirational? It takes everybody working together to make these monumental achievements happen. And there’s something that every one of you can do to contribute to that. So, take a minute. Imagine this future. This is your moment. This is your opportunity. This is something you will create. I look forward to watching that emerge over the next few decades.”
Married 29 years, Mark and and his wife Melanie, who became residents of the city for the first time in 1999, now appear to be lifetime dwellers. “We love it here,” insisted Mark.
Parade-goers, many waving American flags, were entertained throughout the hour-long parade watching dignitaries, politicians, scout troops, baseball and softball players, the Minutemen Band, dozens of kids representing the library, and a variety of non-profit organizations.
Ahooga, ahooga! That was the familiar sound heard on the Fourth of July as a collection of Model A’s rolled down Mission Street as passengers waved to the festive onlookers, enjoying the day. The Santa Anita A’s, an organization dedicated to the restoration, preservation, and enjoyment of the Model A Ford, provided the cars carrying many city and school district officials along the way.
Afterwards, spectators and parade entrants alike rendezvoused at Garfield Park – the end of the parade route.
Fun and games, including sack races and performances by the Minutemen Band rounded out entertainment.
Food booths also offered a variety of tasty summertime cuisine to refuel those who still had a whole afternoon and evening ahead of them.
The day’s (second, or third) climax was the spectacular fireworks display at SPHS’s Ray Solari Stadium.
South Pasadena’s very own Little Silver Hearts played a uniquely charged set to both energize and relax the crowd, priming them for the final show.
Before the long Fourth of July was capped with fireworks, Joe Payne, the parade chair, announced the top entries in the parade. A loud roar was heard for each on a day when patriotism was at its finest.
Awards went to:
High School Minute Man Band
Classic Car Entries
WWII Willys CJ2 Jeep
“Mars” Rover, Cub Scout Pack 139
YMCA “Pound” Fitness
Best Use of Balloons Award
AYSO Region 214
“To the Moon and Beyond. 50 Years of Exploring America’s Freedom”
See you all next year!
Be sure to drop by the SouthPasadenan Headquarters at 1127 Mission St. Monday-Friday 9 a.m.- 5:00 p.m. to pick up a free copy of our annual 4th of July printed edition!
The SouthPasadenan team thanks the community for the immense amount of support it has shown!