Thousands Line the Streets for Festival of Balloons Parade

Kiwanis Club President Henry Wong and company make their way down Mission Street during the Festival of Balloons parade Wednesday morning. Kiwanis sponsored the annual Pancake Breakfast at the Fire Station. Photo by Mikey Hirano Culross

More than a thousand smiling faces lined the streets of South Pasadena Wednesday morning, hooting and hollering as the annual July 4th parade rolled by that featured the traditional mix of bands, scouts and politicians.

Co-chair Jim Anderson kicked off the festivities for the 36-annual Festival of Balloons parade by touting this year’s theme of education or “Our Schools.” Anderson introduced the two grand marshals for the parade, Chris Bengford, the longest tenured teacher at the Holy Family School, a private Catholic school, and Jill Reddy, who has been named Teacher of the Year for the South Pasadena Unified School District.

“Picking the theme for the parade is one of the hardest things we do all year,” Anderson said to those gathered for the opening ceremonies that proceeded the parade. “Our schools have always been the best.”

Co-chair Joe Payne echoed those comments, saying that new families move to South Pasadena because of the schools.

“They even go to the state and the state ranks us up in the top,” Payne said.

Reddy, a lifelong public-school teacher, told the gathered assembly that she was proud to see her former students as engaged adults contributing to the community. Reddy even called out her former third-grade pupil Harry Yadav, now 24, for “writing in the local paper.”

“It gives me such great pride to see that because that’s what we want,” Reddy said. “We want as teachers for our students to grow up and become active, contributing adults in the community.”

Reddy also said that this honor of being grand marshal is for all teachers.

“I was so proud to be a part of this year’s parade because it’s about our schools,” she said prior to the parade during a short interview. “It’s not just about me as a teacher but about all teachers and all students. I am so grateful.”

In fact, when Reddy spoke during the opening ceremonies, she became emotional and ended her speech by saying, “my heart is full.”

Meanwhile, Bengford pointed across the street from the opening ceremonies and said that’s where it all began for him.

“That’s where I attended kindergarten,” Bengford said. “This is about teachers. It’s not how I teach the kids, it’s more how I make the kids feel. Let’s start the parade.”

Which prompted Anderson to retake the microphone and pronounce that the parade “that has more people in it than watching it” was about to begin.

And yet, this year there were significantly more people watching the parade than were in it. More than 1,000 people lined Mission Street in downtown South Pasadena, waving flags, applauding, and smiling as the parade rolled by. There were kids of all ages, families of all ethnicities, even the occasional elected official was sprinkled in among the rest of the crowd joined together to celebrate the day this country gained its independence.

A young mother summed it up this way as her daughter sat in her lap waving a small American flag: “This is the best way to spend July 4th; watching a parade with your family in your hometown. Happy Fourth of July.”

See more photos on pages 6 and 7 of the July 6, 2018 print edition of the South Pasadena Review.