Amid the wafting barbecue scents, endless food stands, giant stuffed-animal prizes and shopping expos, the Los Angeles County Fair dedicated an entire day to the city of La Verne on Sept. 27.
The day began with local schoolchildren piling into buses headed to the Fair. The city combines government funding with local fund-raising to send students for an educational and fun day.
“Events like [La Verne Day at the Fair] are a great showing of good will to the community,” said Marlou Faustini, a volunteer with the La Verne Police Department, an organization featured in the Community Expo.
Nestled between Building 6 and 7 at the Shopping Place, the city of La Verne held its expo from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Tall four-cornered, white tents housed a wide variety of La Verne clubs and organizations giving out free gifts and information.
Some of the booths’ sponsors included “Cool Cruise,” La Verne’s Military Banner Recognition Program, Community Senior Services, Trail Trekkers, Hillcrest, the La Verne Chamber of Commerce, the University of La Verne and the La Verne Heritage Foundation.
The Police Department garnered much attention from younger fairgoers, handing out lollipops, gleaming gold sticker-badges and neon-colored pencils along with a shiny white motorcycle.
“Police officers can be perceived as the ‘bad guys’ and we want kids to think police officers are friends,” Faustini said.
The booth promoted safe driving and staying drug free as well as recruitment for future police. Children and adults bustled around the booth asking questions and collecting the gifts.
“These events are ways for us to communicate with the public, to be seen and so people can know what kind of program we are,” said Officer Jim Royal, of the LVPD.
“We want them to see who we are beyond the officer in the car. After all, we are here to serve them,” he added.
The La Verne Heritage Foundation also attracted a younger crowd with their autumn-themed “interactive history” project.
Taking up two tents, children lined up along tables collecting pumpkin seeds to take home in a small pocket envelope. Volunteers shared with the children how to plant the seed and the great orange pumpkin it will produce.
“We hope to inform the public that we are a foundation dedicated to preserving history,” said Ron Baur, a board member with the foundation. “We hope to share with kids what it was like in La Verne at the turn of the century.”
The foundation promoted their upcoming events inspired by the history of La Verne including their upcoming pumpkin patch.
Later that day at 5:30 p.m., the typical chatter and overlaid music of the Fair became drowned out by upbeat tunes of local marching bands beginning La Verne’s parade.
Led by Damien High School’s band, the parade showcased a number of community programs, leaders and schools.
From an old La Verne fire engine to classic cars, to floats featuring Miss La Verne 2006 Sandy Fernandez and families with men and women in the military, the crowd whistled and cheered during their entire march.
Grooving to the disco tune of “Car Wash,” a float carrying a live band and ’70s singers finished the parade.
The parade route ended at Park Square where the Community Heroes Ceremony commenced at 6 p.m.
Chatting like old friends, community members found seats facing the stage, where The Answer, a classic rock band, played until ULV President Stephen Morgan and La Verne Mayor Jon Blickenstaff ushered in the ceremony.
The community heroes included Tim Hepburn, Harry “Clink” McClintock, Phyllis Helm, Charlie Farrell, Denny Sharp, Kathy Winsor and Virginia Allen.
“So often we think of heroes as athletes or super heroes, but our heroes are ordinary people doing extraordinary things,” Blickenstaff said.
Different community heroes were introduced by a variety of people including family members and neighborhood friends.
Each hero had contributed in a unique way to the community and shared a long history with the city.
“Many of our community heroes have quietly gone about their leadership with La Verne, and what an inspiration they are,” Morgan said.
All the heroes expressed humility accepting their awards and added they were part of a much bigger effort.
“It was a great honor to be elected a community hero, I was a bit embarrassed but happy,” said Winsor, honored for her work to preserve La Verne’s foothill landscape. “I usually prefer to run under the radar, but I’m thrilled.”
“It was an honor to be a community hero,” said Farrell, recognized for more than 30 years of work with the fire department. “I didn’t expect it.”
The night ended with hugs and The Answer resuming its background music of classic rock.
La Verne Day at the Fair, although appearing to be a seamless event, takes year-long planning.
The city teams up with the Fair to coordinate and shape their ideas for the event.
“It’s a combination of efforts to help the community,” said Roger Hanawalt, chair of the La Verne Community Committee, which sets up the event.
The city and Fair also combine with the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin to organize the Community Heroes Ceremony.
The local newspaper solicits ads to invite the community to nominate their hero and the city chooses nominees as well.
“We receive so many letters for La Verne’s community hero, as a smaller town, they know each other better,” said Lynn Donk, community relations manager for Inland Valley Daily Bulletin.
In close proximity to the Fairplex, La Verne is one of eight cities with an entire day dedicated to the community.
“La Verne Day at the Fair gives us a way to publicly appreciate community heroes, ties us together and gives us an expression,” Hanawalt said.
“It’s a time to celebrate on one specific day, show our identity; and have a day of fair fun and celebration as a community,” he added.
Nicole Knight can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.