By Pat KRAMER
Somewhere between 5,000 and 6,000 people staked out a viewing spot along Foothill Boulevard in Sunland on July 4th to witness one of the longest parades the community has seen. Temperatures in the 80s contributed to a very pleasant day for the 80-plus businesses, organizations, dignitaries and equestrians participating in the Independence Day parade hosted each year by the Sunland-Tujunga/Shadow Hills Rotary Club.
Rotary Club President Sabrina Swofford-Godinez called the parade a huge success.
“LAPD Sgt. Ojeda ensured that we had great police coverage and a very safe parade,” she said. “Our grand marshal Brian Schneider was the celebrity of the day and he deserved it. We were thrilled to have Congressman Adam Schiff, Assemblywoman Patty Lopez, Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer, and Kevin James, president of the Los Angeles Board of Public Works, riding in the parade. It was a lot of fun and we really appreciate everyone coming out to celebrate this awesome day with us.”
The parade started promptly at 10 a.m. with a flyover by an LAPD helicopter and this year’s LAPD cadets carrying the ceremonial banner. A special LAPD Motorcycle Corps then impressed the crowd with its skilled maneuvers and flashing lights, providing the parade dignitaries with a thrilling escort.
The parade lasted two hours as each entry turned the corner from Summitrose onto Foothill Boulevard to begin the one-mile stretch. Among those riding in festively outfitted vehicles were entries from the Sunland-Tujunga Neighborhood Council, Little Landers Historical Society, the American Legion, the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, the Verdugo High School baseball team, Tujunga Little League, McGroarty Arts Center, Honorary Mayor Tom Smoker and New Heaven on Earth Ranch.
Other colorful entries included Maggie the Donkey, the Shamrocks Motorcycle Club, Tujunga’s Oldest Rock, several children’s dance groups, Berkshire Hathaway Realty and a wealth of colorful riders on horseback.
Many entities contributed to keeping the costs down for the Rotary, which amounted to about $1,500 for putting the parade into motion. The STNC paid for the Rotary’s rented golf carts, Burbank’s The Sign Studio provided free car signage, and many others donated their time and effort to help make this year’s parade a success.
As evening approached, the gates opened at Verdugo Hills High School, the site of the Family Fireworks Festival, put on by the Sunland-Tujunga Shadow Hills Community Fund and the S-T Chamber of Commerce.
Brenda Fortune, a community fund member and director of the Sunland-Tujunga Chamber of Commerce, spent months setting up the Family Fireworks Festival, which drew an estimated 2,100-2,300 people. Her role as coordinator involved bringing in the food trucks, signing up volunteers, getting donations from local businesses, making sure the power was “on” for the lighting and sound, getting the stage built, and then making sure Pyro Spectacular was ready to go when the lights went down.
“Everything went really smoothly,” said Fortune of her role with Community Fund President Dan McManus and S-T Chamber President Michael Moncreiff in putting the event together. “It was a mellow event and we made all of the money we expected to make to provide matching grants next year to Verdugo Hill High School clubs and organizations to pay for different projects. We were very pleased with the turnout.”
With tickets selling for $8 (children under a certain age got in free), the Family Fireworks Festival provides an affordable place each year for families to celebrate the holiday in a safe way. The cost of admission included games for the kids by community member Phillip Powell, and face painting by the Whittier Clowns. For the adults, music was provided by the bands Positive Source, Thunder Tap, Revolution Road, and Ceile Borman and Tropical Punch, with Borman singing the national anthem. Shane Coleman, of “Heroes of Life,” ran the soundboard to bring the entertainment and fireworks to life.
To cover the costs required for this event, several businesses stepped forward, including DIY (Do It Yourself Center) in Tujunga, which acted as a major sponsor, C&M Printing, Vons, Mark’s Lock and Key, Albertsons and Athens Services. Additionally, volunteers from the YMCA, STNC, and S-T Chamber, among other service organizations, helped with ticket sales, while VHHS girls’ softball coach Eddie Marquez and several other coaches provided gate security.
As the night set in, U.S. Congressman Adam Schiff and Assemblywoman Patty Lopez spoke to the families about the importance of honoring the nation’s history before fireworks lit up the night sky at 9 p.m. with a spectacular display of dazzle.