By Nate Rudman
Photo by Nate Rudman
Pancakes waft through the air near the fire station, kids holding red, white, and blue balloons dart through the crowded sidewalks on Mission Street, and fireworks repaint the sky above the football field every Fourth of July during the annual South Pasadena Balloon Festival. The Balloon Festival brings South Pasadena together to celebrate Independence Day, yet it has also become a celebration of our culture and what makes our community amazing.
South Pasadena is a small, close-knit community where the phrase “everyone knows everyone” seems close to the truth. School Board Member Jon Primuth says that South Pasadena is made of people “aspiring to create a community together.” The culture of South Pasadena is such that it thrives off of community events. Whether it be an art crawl or a parade, the community comes together to enjoy the events and to create them.
That translates into events like the Balloon Festival using the high school band to play the National Anthem. That translates into its boy scout troops leading the Pledge of Allegiance. That translates into the Balloon Festival being able to show off so many diverse groups or individuals in its parade, from the Chief of Police walking like Ric Flair, to the members of the Community Garden dressed as vegetables, to a man simply proud of his hydrogen-powered car. The Balloon Festivals encourages people all across South Pasadena to find time to step out of their house and enjoy the individuality of all those around them and marvel at what they create.
Creation, too, is integral to our culture and is extremely evident during the Balloon Festival. Every Independence Day, parade goers make costumes to march in, the breakfast club make pancakes to devour, and the city works together to create a day full of laughter, cheer, and togetherness.
I’ve marched in the Fourth of July parade three times. Now, I see all the young kids marching in the same parade that I did a decade before. It’s taken all those ten years inside of South Pasadena to recognize what an astounding culture I see every day. The Fourth of July Balloon Festival is a physical representation of the diversity and familiarity that makes South Pasadena great. The festival shows our ability to celebrate together not in spite of our differences but because of them, and cherish what makes each of us unique.