As has long been a cherished staple of life in La Cañada Flintridge, residents came together to celebrate their community with a multi-day party this past weekend for the 45th edition of Fiesta Days.
Together, neighbors enjoyed a host of activities, including fireworks, food, music and, on Memorial Day, thousands showed up to watch or participate in the colorful, patriotic parade.
But before that, as has been tradition since 1976, a couple hundred people took a pause from the festivities to pay tribute to sacrifices made by U.S. military personnel in the line of duty, including the 29 with LCF roots who died in combat and whose names adorn plaques in Memorial Park.
“It’s important for us to stop and remember all of those who fought so hard to give us the quality of life which we appreciate today,” said Mayor Terry Walker, whose father, Jack Raymond Murphy, served in World War II. He was the youngest ship captain in the Navy, she said, leading a mine-sweeper into many precarious situations.
Following a presentation of the flag and poignant performances of wartime poems and songs by local youth, 28 area veterans, including Joe Giocomarra, a World War II veteran of the Merchant Marine who turned 100 on Monday, introduced themselves to the crowd. Some of the veterans shared short anecdotes of their careers, others called for the members of the audience remember those who were lost in battle.
“Of course, the parade is fun and we love the movie in the park, but the ceremony really gets down to the core of Memorial Day,” said Girl Scout Emilie Risha, 16, who read a pair of World War I-era poems in this year’s ceremony, the fifth or sixth in which she’s participated.
“A lot of people say ‘Happy Memorial Day,’” said her younger sister, Isabelle, a 6th-grader at La Cañada Elementary, who held aloft a large American flag along the parade route after the ceremony. “But Emily always says it should be, ‘Remember Memorial Day,’ because it’s not a happy day; it’s a day of remembrance.”
Maggie MacKenzie, a freshman at La Cañada High School, delivered a moving rendition of “Danny Boy.” It was her fourth time, at least, performing in the ceremony, she said.
“Our town this weekend, it’s kind of crazy. There’s constantly something to do,” she said. “But for this, you’re not coming just to have a fun time or to watch people sing or watch the movie in the park, it’s really gathering together to respect something greater than that.”
For three members of Boy Scout Troop 502 who helped raise the flag, their participation in the ceremony served as a treasured annual ritual.
“This very much has a group meaning to us,” said Chris Clark, a St. Francis High School sophomore, who has known fellow Scouts Patrick Kalb and Drew Pickett for more than a decade. “To me, personally, this even is something that’s always stayed constant. No matter how much life has changed, I’ve always had Boy Scouts, I’ve always been able to be a part of the flag ceremony, and I think to the three of us, it means a lot about brotherhood and friendship.”
For the Risha sisters, Fiesta Days also has been a constant in their lives as they’ve grown up — especially Monday’s events, including the big parade down Foothill Boulevard.
This year, the procession included dignitaries such as Congressman Adam Schiff, state Sen. Anthony Portantino, state Assemblywoman Laura Friedman, as well as L.A. County Sheriff’s Capt. Jim McDonnell and city officials.
It began with a riderless horse, in tribute to local businessman and philanthropist Allen Lund, who recently died. Following behind were Miss LCF Princesses, preschoolers, their parents and much else, including the skeleton of the LCF Tournament of Roses float, “Tree Frog Night.” Maureen Bond, the executive director of the Community Center of La Cañada Flintridge, was this year’s grand marshal.
“Every year, you change and see the parade in a different way,” said Emilie Risha, reminiscing about her time riding on a fire truck in the parade, and relishing the opportunity to see so many people she hadn’t in a long time.
“Now that I’m older, it’s not quite so magical,” rising 7th-grader Isabelle Risha said. “But I’ll always come out to see it. I never want to skip a year, it’s such a great tradition.”