It was billed as a “night of fellowship, good food and wallet lightening” by Gary Pia, the master of ceremonies for Friday night’s annual Crunch Time Party at the War Memorial Building.
Pia held a double role as emcee and event auctioneer, where he encouraged the nearly 200 in attendance to open their wallets in support of South Pasadena’s float entry – “Booster Club” – that will roll down Colorado Blvd. on Monday in the 129th Rose Parade.
“We all know why we are here,” Pia, South Pasadena’s city treasure, told the crowd as he later encouraged everyone to be part of the bidding during the live auction. “This is a tradition unlike many. We have had a floral entry in the Tournament of Roses Parade since 1893.”
Along with the live auction, which included everything from vacation getaways, Dodger tickets, to a party for 50, was a silent auction featuring an abundance of gifts, from a USC tailgate picnic basket to a $100 gift certificate from Shiro restaurant. There were also fine wines, photographs, golf specials, movie tickets and more.
Guests dined on fine cuisine from Little Lily’s Kitchen, featuring smokey tomato braised chicken, roasted root vegetables, sautéed winter greens, salad and bread pudding for dessert.
“This is always a nice, very fun event,” said South Pasadena Mayor Dr. Richard Schneider, before presenting the city’s prestigious Image Award to Barbara Eisenstein, the founder of the Friends of the Nature Park.
The award annually goes to someone special who has improved the image of South Pasadena beyond its borders.
“Barbara has worked tirelessly at the Nature Park,” Schneider told the dinner guests.
The park can be found in the 100 block of Pasadena Avenue near the York Street Bridge going into Highland Park. “We have preserved a lot of the natural plants and typography of the Arroyo,” explained Schneider. “Barbara has been instrumental in doing that.”
Schneider praised Eisenstein and many volunteers for cleaning up “so much junk” that once occupied much of the park. “It was [at one time] used by the city as an unofficial dump. There were big pieces of concrete and asphalt, abandoned farm equipment. There were encampments with people living down there, box springs, chairs…everything you can imagine. It was a mess.”
Schneider credited Eisenstein and other volunteers for cleaning it up, noting that Barbara, a botanist, “has been a guiding force in improving the mix of plants that we have in making it a real nature park,” he said, noting that it is “a little jewel that we have in our city.”
The mayor stressed that improvements made at the park “wouldn’t have happened without a person like Barbara.”
After receiving the high honor Friday night, Eisenstein offered to give those in the audience a tour of the park. “It is a gem,” she said. “It is a beautiful place. I’m honored to get this [award] in particular because I’ve made so many friends doing this. It has been such a wonderful experience.”