With smiles finally unmasked and Foothill Boulevard filled with palpable enthusiasm, La Cañada Flintridge families gathered along sidewalks, medians and driveways to celebrate the 2021 Hometown Parade.
This year’s parade differed from processions in previous years, taking place the day after the Fourth of July instead of during Memorial Day weekend, when the traditional Fiesta Days event is held. Beyond the date, however, the parade was even more distinctive for what it symbolized: resilience in emerging from the past year’s coronavirus-related challenges and hope for the community’s rejuvenation.
With optimism and joy in the air on the sunny Monday morning, participants included equestrian units, bands, Scouts, and law enforcement and fire department personnel, all lined up to embark down Foothill Boulevard to cheers and waves.
Parade attendee Jeanne Gronfeldt noted how heartening it felt to be surrounded by neighbors again and hear the buzz of conversation.
“We are very happy to be coming out of the pandemic,” she said, nodding and smiling to fellow audience members. “To be able to gather and be together is very important, and it seems like we are doing better. Seeing this is encouraging and inspiring.”
Community members could be seen reconnecting as they waited for the parade to begin, with everyone festively attired and enjoying music from the local band Rose Avenue and the La Cañada High School Marching Band.
The entries represented prominent elements of LCF life, starting with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory — the parade grand marshal — and including Scout Troop 509, the LCF Sister Cities Association and the La Cañada Junior Baseball Softball Association, all carrying banners as they made their way down Foothill.
Waving from atop classic cars driven by community members, the 2020 and 2021 Miss LCF Royal Courts greeted familiar and unfamiliar faces alike.
Katharine Franklin, the 2021 court’s queen, explained that the community parade has always been an important part of her life: “I’ve been going to the parade for as long as I can remember,” said Franklin, adding that she used to walk with her teddy bear alongside St. George’s Preschool to watch the parade as a youngster.
Allison Rayer, Miss LCF 2020, said, “Being in the parade this summer and seeing the community is a great way to send us off to college.”
Rayer shared her gratitude for the way in which the community rallied to help the 2020 Royal Court earn scholarship dollars. “Every month, Mr. Bent Hansen from Los Gringos Locos had a fundraiser for the court. I feel that the whole community greatly helped us during our year. Now we get to give back, as everything opens up, to thank them.”
Youth and adults who were either marching in the parade or viewing it shared their hopes for the coming year.
La Cañada Unified School District Governing Board member Josh Epstein said, “The past year has been challenging but I’m excited that it feels like we are on the right path toward getting back to school as normal and being focused on things that the school board normally focuses on — rather than a global pandemic.”
At the close of the parade, Royal Court adviser Katherine Markgraf described how pleased she was to see the community slowly returning to normal with events such as Music in the Park.
“Next year, I’m hoping for a full slate of events,” Markgraf said, referring to the annual Fiesta Days run of activities that are spread out over Memorial Day weekend.
The community’s resilience and commitment to staying connected during the pandemic was nothing short of incredible, parade attendees said.
Local student Aidan Robinson said that if he had to describe the past year in one word, it would be “Inspiring.”
“I hope we continue to bounce back, but not in the way that we forget COVID ever happened. … Instead, I hope we carry the lessons we have learned with us,” he said.
Amid the vibrant celebration, the Hometown Parade was a refreshing reminder of the unmatched excitement that community-wide events cultivate, others observed.
Though the event did not signal an immediate end to the pandemic, Audrey Melillo — a member of the LCF 2020 court — said that experiencing the parade was valuable to her, especially after health orders aimed at stopping the spread of COVID-19 largely sidelined her court’s experiences.
“Being next to my best friends and being cheered on by members of my community made me feel involved in a way that was difficult to feel before,” said Melillo. “I’m incredibly grateful for this beautiful moment.”
As LCF Chamber CEO and president as well as one of the parade organizers, Pat Anderson shared warm wishes for LCF residents to persist and stay safe. Though the July 4 weekend is a popular time for travel, Anderson said she was pleasantly surprised at the large turnout.
“It seemed that most people who were in town came out to the parade and had a great time,” she said. “Both of the royal courts were ecstatic to participate, especially the 2020 court because [the pandemic took] so much from them.”
Although the parade officially ended at noon with a final helicopter flyover, the enthusiasm and sense of celebration didn’t. Community members waved to one another from their cars as they drove home, and families could be overheard making plans to reconvene later that day at Music in the Park.