Published : Wednesday, July 3, 2019 | 5:05 AM
[Updated] Madison Heights Neighborhood Association’s (MHNA) annual Fourth of July parade and picnic was born with the simple idea of honoring veterans, firefighters, and police on the most patriotic day of the year.
What is simple can often endure, as has this particular event for 18 years, since its inception after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, which inspired its convocation.
Prior to that infamous day, people in the neighborhood actually celebrated the French Bastille Day, according to Kelley Holmes, who chaired the MHNA at the time.
“You had the folks on South Hudson saying, ‘We do a potluck,’ and the folks on Madison saying, ‘We usually do barbecue,’” she remembered. “People didn’t want to break away from their traditions,” she continued, “but after 9/11 everybody knit together because of the tragedy.”
That process involved five weeks of planning in Holmes’ back yard with parents rotating to keep an eye on all the kids as they played. Mary Monroe brought an In-n-Out burger truck to the table.
Laura Olinksi put together an arts and crafts program for children. Holmes organized the neighborhood so that kids could write personalized letters to members of the military.
She recalled that Rob and Leslie Levy underwrote the performance of the Grateful Dads band to play the block party. The now-deceased Joyce Kelly secured the Blair High School Junior ROTC Color Guard’s participation as well as floral donations from Armstrong Garden Center.
There was a bouncy house and Mark Graf stood en garde as a safety measure. There were flags and flowers delivered to households along the parade route, a task handled by Chuck Livingstone, Lu Gordon and Rosey Bell. Lucien Carter, who has also passed, gave out name badges and kept tabs on everyone’s contact information.
Then-councilman Sid Tyler reached out to then-Mayor Bogaard, Rep. Adam Schiff (D), and others to join the festivities while Pam Thyret, currently field liaison for Councilmember Andy Wilson, worked with City staff to get the necessary permits and insurance coverage.
Rick Dinkle and current MHNA President John Latta coordinated the placement of street barricades while Ron Manzke and brood ran the rented snow-cone machine.
To this day, Rick and Bonnie Sill continue coordinating the “day of” meal ticket sales.
“I clearly remember,” said Holmes, “the magic of the day as the kids assembled with their patriotic costumes and the decorated bikes, tricycles, wagons, strollers, wheelchairs; the patriotic pups, everyone assembled to celebrate what is right with our country, our city, and our neighborhood.”
Erika Foy, Vice President, Membership and Block Captain Chair of the MHNA, described this year’s event as kicking off with a parade that gathers around 10 a.m. at the corner of Euclid and Fillmore.
It is led by the aforementioned ROTC Color Guard, followed by the Blair High School drumline, which will be succeeded in parade order by all the Scouts of America troops in the area.
They will be followed by a vintage yellow Thunderbird, and then “lots of kids on bikes and people walking,” she said. The final destination is Allandale Park where picnicking becomes the focus of activity.
Police Chief John Perez will be walking in the parade in the place of the original Grand Marshall, Dick Hartt, who is not feeling well.
Hart flew B-25s in the South Pacific as part of the Army Air Corps during World War II. After the war he used the G.I. Bill to pay for his studies in photography at ArtCenter. Upon graduating in 1950, he and his wife Jean purchased a “train car’ bungalow at Euclid and Fillmore Avenues before moving on, in 1956, to the home where he still resides.
As Dick unspooled a fruitful freelance photography career, “The Hartts soon became the toast of Madison Heights,” MHNA said in a statement. “Having ‘Keen Jeen’ and ‘The Dickster’ at the party always meant lots of fun.”
Hartt is 98 years old and still enjoys working on his 1947 Woody and 1958 Mercedes 220 S.
The Madison Heights Neighborhood Association (MHNA) July 4th Parade and Picnic has become a neighborhood tradition that celebrates hometown heroes and strengthens the relationships between neighbors. Families come from throughout the Pasadena area to join the fun. Other than food, The Event is Free! The Pie ‘n Burger truck is back with burgers or grilled cheese sandwiches plus chips and a drink for lunch. As always, you can purchase lunch tickets online in advance