Families embrace local events to celebrate independence

The Santa Clarita Trolley makes a stop on the city's 2019 Fourth of July Patriotic Tour. The Mejia family took part in the 2020 Patriotic Tour, saying doing so provides them with a sense of community. Courtesy photo

By Abbie DeMuth
For The Signal 

What began as a mother’s passion transformed into a longstanding tradition for the Mejia family. 

Living in Santa Clarita since 1992, J.C. Mejia began decorating his home for the Fourth of July holiday to fulfill his mother’s elaborate plans. 

The family loves the Fourth of July, and every year, family members do what they can to show their appreciation for their country and its freedoms. 

“We are blessed to be in this country and we are thankful for all it has to offer,” Mejia said, mentioning their motivation for the celebration.  

In fact, as a dialysis patient, Mejia’s mother would make sure she was the first in line to receive her treatments ahead of the city’s Fourth of July Parade, as it rolled through Old Town Newhall on its way around the city each year.  

However, due to pandemic-related restrictions, the city wasn’t able to plan its parade last year or this summer. So, in order to celebrate America’s independence, the city is hosting its second annual Patriotic Pee-Wee Parade that encourages residents to build miniature parade floats. Residents can also patriotically decorate the fronts of their homes and businesses to win prizes. 

This year’s parade theme is “America Emerging with Patriotic Enthusiasm” to celebrate patriotism and freedoms after months of quarantine, according to a news release from city officials. 

For the Mejias, participating in the city’s Fourth of July Patriotic Tour provides an extreme sense of community, which has been crucial due to months of quarantine, he said. 

“Even with more time at home, there was still a sense of community,” he added. 

When participating in the 2020 Patriotic Tour, the Santa Clarita Trolley visited Mejia’s house, with his neighbors joining in the fun to take photos and exchange cheer with his family. 

The city has created a “safe party” atmosphere, he said, for individuals through the community support his family experienced in the competition. His family’s participation isn’t for prizes, he added, it’s for pride.  

 “It is nothing more than that,” he said. “We already got our prize when we got here.” 

Ella Fernandez celebrates the Fourth of July in 2019. A year later, Ella was selected Santa Clarita’s Fourth of July Patriotic Tour Pee-Wee Parade Grand Marshall. Courtesy photo

Fun for the whole family 

Last Fourth of July, the Fernandez family received an unexpected knock on the door. Ella Fernandez was greeted by then-Mayor Cameron Smyth and a patriotically hand-decorated Santa Clarita Transit trolley. Ella Fernandez had been selected as Santa Clarita’s first Mini Grand Marshall to announce the winners of the Pee-Wee Parade. 

Inside the trolley were the Santa Clarita City Council members heading to the Old Town Newhall Library to announce the winners of the Patriotic Tour. Ella and her mother rode through town for the announcement. 

Edna Fernandez shared how the pandemic had severely impacted her daughter’s mental health. However, celebrating city events has given Ella something to look forward to and served as a bonding point with her mother. 

“The whole pandemic has affected her mental health and even her emotional health,” Edna said. “It was very difficult for her to even finish school. The last month of school, she didn’t even want to finish her assignments because she was burned out. She has been looking forward to summer vacation and this.” 

The 2021 Mini Grand Marshall will announce the winners of the Fourth of July Patriotic Tour Sunday, July 4. To be selected, parents or guardians are asked to submit a photo of their child dressed in their most patriotic attire. 

The winners of the Patriotic Tour this year will be determined by a panel of judges headed by Councilwoman Laurene Weste.  

The city has also announced the return of the Fourth of July firework display, which was previously cancelled due to the pandemic in 2020. The fireworks will take place on Magic Mountain Parkway and Citrus Street at 9:15 p.m. on Sunday, July 4.

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