South Pasadena’s five public schools, along with Holy Family, a premiere private institution in the city, have all earned plenty of honors over the years, but they’re about to receive, perhaps, their finest on the Fourth of July.
They will be the focus during South Pasadena’s Independence Day Festival of Balloons festivities.
Jill Reddy, the 2017-18 South Pasadena Unified School District Teacher of the Year, and Chris Bengford, a longtime teacher at Holy Family School, will serve as grand marshals and ride in the city’s parade down Mission Street.
“Our Schools – Pride of South Pasadena” will the be the Festival of Balloons’ theme for a daylong of fun, starting with the Kiwanis Pancake Breakfast at the fire station 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 from noon to 4 p.m. and the always popular fireworks show at the local high school at 9 p.m.
Serving as the grand marshals with thousands of residents looking on is “a really big deal,” stressed Festival of Balloons’ committee member Joe Payne, who handles the parade portion of the festivities.
“There’s something about South Pasadena that makes it a constant draw for incoming families to move into town, and that is because of 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.”
Reddy and Bengford will wave to the crowd aboard a classic Model A Ford. “We’re proud to honor them,” said Payne. “The schools are a huge part of our city.”
Reddy, who teaches kindergarten at Arroyo Vista Elementary School, hopes to become one of L.A. County’s teachers of the year now that she’s been honored at the district level.
Including a year and half in the Alhambra Unified School District at the outset of her career, Reddy has been teaching for approximately 21 years. Since coming to the South Pasadena Unified School District, she has never left Arroyo Vista.: “It’s just a joy to be here,” she said.
Reddy has also taught 3rd, 4th , and 5th grades during her successful career in education.
The look in a young student’s eye “when they really get it, when they’re excited about what they are learning” is what Reddy enjoys most about the teaching profession.
Growing up, Bengford attended Holy Family School and South Pasadena High School, where he graduated in 1986. He has taught for 27 years, including 25 at Holy Family. “I became an educator because of the great teachers and coaches that I had growing up in South Pasadena,” said Bengford. “I thank the committee of the Festival of Balloons for celebrating teachers.”
He also gave a shout out to Ted Shaw, a retired businessperson who, along with his wife Joan, and a dedicated committee, for launching the city’s first Fourth of July Parade in 1982.
“I especially want to thank Mr. Ted Shaw for organizing this parade so many years ago,” he said.
Arroyo Vista, Marengo, Monterey Hills Elementary Schools, South Pasadena Middle School, South Pasadena High School and Holy Family School have all earned the state’s highest honors over the years.
“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 for 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 duties as the parade and security chair, each year Payne joins his wife, Joan, in hanging theme posters created by 5th graders on light standards and poles up-and-down the parade route. Students are asked to research the parade’s theme and draw their thoughts on giant posters.
“They are a big part of the Festival of Balloons,” said Payne. “The posters really identify with the parade. Their creativity is endless. They do a great, great job with our theme every year.”
About 100 posters can be seen along the parade route between Meridian Street and Fair Oaks Avenue.
Putting the Festival of Balloon together is a core group of volunteers, which meets monthly on the last Wednesday of the month at 7:30 p.m. inside the City Council Chambers. About 100 others lend a hand, helping in a variety of tasks on the 4th of July. Interested community members are encouraged to attend a future planning meeting.
“It’s a well-oiled machine,” said Rosemary Whitney, the Festival of Balloons’ chair, of the committee. “Everyone knows and does their job so well. It all comes together for a great day in our city.”