Mary Emily Myers
Outlook Valley Sun
Judging by the throngs of residents attending the Golden Jubilee events last weekend, Fiesta Days is well on its way toward the centennial.
The La Cañada Flintridge Chamber of Commerce threw yet another successful Fiesta Days parade for the community, which celebrated 50 years of tradition in coming together.
Though Memorial Day started off with cloudy skies and a bit of sprinkles, that didn’t stop residents from setting up their chairs before the parade along Foothill Boulevard.
Jim Kroeger and Janet Beggs have been La Cañada Flintridge residents for 62 years and have never missed a parade.
“We never miss [it], even on a rainy day,” said Kroeger. “Memorial Day is all about celebrating our wonderful fallen heroes… They defend our country and keep us free and safe.”
After coming to so many parades, “We know where to be and what time to be there,” said Beggs, who arrived at 10:30 a.m. as the parade was just starting.
Karen Hunt attended the parade with her mother and son. Although Hunt grew up in LCF, she moved out after college but comes back every year to watch the parade with her mother, Nancy Wagner, 92, who still is a resident.
“She’s still in the same house that I grew up in. So, we come back every year to watch the parade,” said Hunt.
She was excited to see some of the grand marshals and former queens who she knew from years back, like Susan LeFevre and Carolyn Gramly, who were the first two queens for the LCF Royal Court.
“Carolyn and I were in the same grade, so I am going to be running out in the street to say hello,” said Hunt.
Hunt was dressed to impress in her 1975 cheerleading sweater.
“It’s a great parade no matter what, rain or drizzle. So, I am glad to see people out here even when it is drizzling out,” said Hunt.
Attendees got to enjoy a variety of people and organizations in the parade. It kicked off with the La Cañada High School marching band, and shortly after, a car that held Susan LeFevre, the first LCF Royal Court queen and the current queen, Hannah Kiang. A NASA Services donated truck followed behind filled with Miss LCF queens and princesses since 1973.
Officials such as state Sen. Anthony Portantino, L.A. County Supervisor Kathryn Barger and Crescenta Valley Sherriff’s Station Caption Robert Hahnlein made an appearance.
The lineup consisted of about 76 participants and also included LCF City Council members and La Cañada Unified District Board of Education members.
Mayor Keith Eich walked alongside fellow councilmembers and said he enjoyed seeing friends, family and children who he used to coach. Although Eich likes to finish walking in the parade to then go sit with his family, he was able to walk the parade route this year with his 9-year-old son, who was holding the banner introducing the City Council.
“I feel like we’re getting back to where we were prior to COVID,” said Eich. “But I felt like this year was fantastic, and better than last year. I feel like every year we get better.”
Children and adults smiled with excitement as the L.A. County Fire Department and California Highway Patrol trucks and cars passed by waving and sounding their sirens.
The idea behind the parade and celebrating 50 years of Fiesta Days was Royal Court Adviser Katherine Markgraf.
Her goal was to clinch the attendance of as many LCF Royal Court former queens and princesses as possible to be a part of the parade.
“I thought it would be so easy to gather phone numbers and email addresses of past court members,” said Markgraf. “I could not have been more wrong!”
But that didn’t stop her in the endeavor. She started spreading the word and even created a LCF Royal Court social media campaign, and found that many of the mothers of court members still lived in the area.
“While outreach and advertising was going on, I thought if we could get at least 10 alumnae to join in the festivities, I would consider my efforts worthwhile,” said Markgraf.
Ultimately, she was able to bring together more than 30 court members. The feedback she received made it all worth it, she noted.
“Going down the parade route, Ellen Johnson Hawthorne’s 90-plus year-old mother was on the sidewalk, cheering her daughter on. Ellen was a princess in 1976. The look on her mother’s face said it all… right then Ellen was 17 years old again and her mom was so enthusiastically clapping and waving at her,” said Markgraf.
Although the weather did scare her, as they started the parade, all she saw was smiling faces.
“I feared the weather would keep everyone home,” said Markgraf. “As we started down the route, I could see the sidewalks were filled with happy faces… what a blessing!”
Markgraf said will always remember the moment she looked out from the truck to see so many court members from every decade all in one place.
“I had the overwhelming and elated feeling of the past and present of our city, all coming together on this special day; I’ll never forget that moment,” she said.
LCF Chamber of Commerce President/CEO Pat Anderson said she was proud of her daughter, Markgraf, for taking charge of the theme for this year’s Fiesta Days.
“What amazing joy to witness the past (1973) and the future (2023) in one setting and the statements of memories from our lineage of royalty,” said Anderson.
She then reminded the community of the true importance of the day.
“Memorial Day, the American holiday honoring the men and women who died while serving in the United States military,” said Anderson. “Let us always remember that veterans are a symbol of what makes our nation great, and we must never forget all they have done to ensure our freedom.”
First published in the June 1 print issue of the Outlook Valley Sun.