A Day of Remembrance and Festivities at LCF’s Fiesta Days

Photos by Mary Emily Myers / OUTLOOK Local Boy Scouts (left) raise an American flag during Monday's annual Memorial Service at Memorial Park. Afterward, Harper Klausner (right) and Greyson Molinelli were among the stars of the Fiesta Days parade that rolled down Foothill Boulevard, highlighting the 44th Fiesta Days celebration in La Cañada Flintridge.
Photos by Mary Emily Myers / OUTLOOK
Local Boy Scouts (left) raise an American flag during Monday’s annual Memorial Service at Memorial Park. Afterward, Harper Klausner (right) and Greyson Molinelli were among the stars of the Fiesta Days parade that rolled down Foothill Boulevard, highlighting the 44th Fiesta Days celebration in La Cañada Flintridge.

La Cañada Flintridge partied this past weekend, but it also paused to reflect.
For the 44th consecutive year, thousands got together in LCF for the annual four-day fiesta that culminated Monday morning with a somber memorial service followed by a lively, patriotic parade.
The Memorial Service honored not only the 29 LCF residents whose names are engraved on plaques at Memorial Park for having given their lives in military service, but all American service members, former and current, who have made great sacrifices on behalf of their fellow citizens.
John Doherty, a Vietnam War veteran whose uncles — LCF residents John and Joseph Doherty — were killed in World War II, spoke to the crowd of about 300 about John Flagg, his former classmate at St. Francis High School. Flagg suffered severe injuries during combat in Vietnam, became addicted to the painkillers used to treat him before suffering the effects of having been exposed to Agent Orange, Doherty said.
“John is like tens and tens of thousands of others, who suffered lost limbs, lost dignity, lost hope,” Doherty said. “And so his name doesn’t go on the plaque, but his name needs to be in our hearts, because he’s one of us from La Cañada Flintridge, and he suffered 30 years before he finally got to die and put the suffering to an end.
“People come up to me … and they say, ‘Happy Memorial Day’ to me,” Doherty continued, “and I can never, ever understand that. The word ‘happy’ doesn’t belong in that phrase.
“‘Thoughtful’ does, and ‘memorial,’ but not ‘happy.’ And so my request of you today is this: Take a moment to remember John Flagg and all those like him and give a silent thought for them and a silent prayer and remember for every name on the Vietnam wall, for every name of the plaques here, there’s dozens and dozens more men who suffered in battle at the request of their country.”
Dennis Flagg, John Flagg’s younger brother and Vietnam War veteran, attended the LCF Memorial Service for the first time and joined Doherty and another 37 military veterans on stage. Dennis Flagg said he was moved by the ceremony, and especially by its substantial inclusion of children, who read solemn poems and letters, sang songs and led the proceedings.
“The best part was all the young kids,” Dennis Flagg said. “That tradition gives them an awareness of what’s happened and that it’s something to remember, and they can carry that on to other generations.”
La Cañada Unified School District Governing Board member Ellen Multari said she never attended the Memorial Service before joining the board, but now, she said, she encourages everyone to go.
“It’s really moving,” she said, adding that it’s important to think about how personal war is.
Another memorial, also personal to many residents of LCF, was at the front of the parade that got moving down Foothill Boulevard a few minutes after the Memorial Service finished.
A pair of Boy Scouts carried a white banner that read: “In Loving Memory of Dave Spence,” and behind them trotted a quarter horse carrying only an empty saddle and a pair of boots pointed backward in the stirrups.
The symbolic riderless horse often is used in military parades and in the funerals of presidents Abraham Lincoln, John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan. Monday it was employed to honor Spence, a seven-term councilman who died after an apparent heart attack on May 16.
The 88 entries that followed over the next hour featured everything from veterans such as 100-year-old Col. Gerald Rimpau to dignitaries such as Congressman Adam Schiff, state Sen. Anthony Portantino, state Assemblywoman Laura Friedman and local city council members as well as hundreds of preschoolers pedaling bikes, kick-pushing scooters or pulling boxes decorated in red, white and blue.
There were Scouts and sirens, bands and belly dancers, princesses and political clubs, community service groups, and Tommy Trojan and Joe and Josephine Bruin.
La Cañada Elementary School kindergarten teacher Mandy Redfern sat with her family on the curb near the district office, awaiting the arrival of her daughter, Katelyn — as well as the many pupils and former pupils who were sure to spot her as they paraded past.
“You just sit here and you see all your neighbors and all your friends,” said Christie Frandsen, who watched the parade with her 2-year-old granddaughter Nora and her well-loved monkey, Charles. “You get all the news, what the new grandkid count is (Nora is No. 19), all that stuff. You sit right here and they all come by.”
Ann Neilson said she’s been coming to the parade since 1976, when she headed the local Girl Scouts contingent. She remembers every troop having a wagon that depicted the Girl Scouts promise.
“The parade wasn’t nearly as big then,” she said, “If there were three fire engines back then, there are 30 now!”
“I like the whole weekend,” Neilson added. “I had French toast yesterday and was at the Rose Float open house and at the park last night — the fireworks, oh, my gosh, they were magnificent! And then the parade is really the topper though: You’re either in it or watching it, or I guess you don’t live here.”

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