After a ceremony honoring veterans in La Cañada Flintridge on Monday, Ron Dietel reflected on those he has lost.
His mother, father and uncle all served in World War II. His uncle died during the war and his parents have since passed away. Dietel, himself an officer in the U.S. Air Force from 1974-83, sees Memorial Day as a somber holiday.
"It means a lot to me," said the 61-year-old. "It's wonderful to see the community spirit that comes together for Memorial Day."
In the shade under the gazebo in Memorial Park, Dietel, a former member of the La Cañada school board, joined other local veterans who were honored for their service along with fallen soldiers. The annual ceremony was followed by a boisterous, colorful parade down Foothill Boulevard, part of the weekend-long celebration known as Fiesta Days.
The weekend started with a casino-themed night at the Community Center of La Cañada Flintridge and included activities that longtime residents have come to see as beloved traditions: a breakfast with French toast and local strawberries, a movie screening in the park, a fireworks show and a Memorial Day run through the foothills.
The run, hosted by the Crescenta-Cañada YMCA, drew its usual crowd of families and solo runners from La Cañada, La Crescenta, Pasadena and neighboring communities. And it's not unusual for participants to run or walk straight to the next event after crossing the finish line at Descanso Gardens.
After finishing a run with two of his children Monday, Alex Seropian walked back to his home before 9 a.m. holding two bananas. After he made a smoothie, he said, he planned to march with the Cub Scouts in the parade.
"Everybody in town comes out," said the 43-year-old. "It's a lot of fun."
Helicopters flying low over Foothill Boulevard marked the start of the parade, a change from the event's early years, said Penny Baisley, 72.
The La Cañada resident remembers when bombers flew over the city before the Fiesta Days parade and a tank's tracks tore up the road.
"We were sitting on the curb as we could feel the vibration," she said.
Monday's parade still had its share of interesting vehicles, from a vintage, open-air Los Angeles fire truck to a car towing local band Misplaced Priorities' musicians. Preschoolers rode tricycles decked out with red, white and blue streamers. Members of the La Cañada Flintridge Tournament of Roses Assn. rode atop a skeleton design of the 2014 Rose Parade float, "Dog Gone!"
Baisley said she's seen almost every parade, and not one has been a disappointment. "They've all been fabulous," she said. "Just fabulous."
The weekend's kick-off event, the Casino Night at the Community Center, drew 200 guests and raised an estimated $5,000, according to Executive Director Deborah Jordan.
It was the third year the center has hosted a similar event, but the first time it's been timed to coincide with Fiesta Days. According to Jordan, attendance was triple that of previous years' Casino Nights.
"I was very pleased with the event, a very fun event where the community and council members turned-out to support the Center and enjoy the night," said Ara Aslanian, president of the facility's board of directors. "We are looking forward to making the Casino Night a Fiesta Days Kick-off tradition."
On Sunday afternoon, the grounds of Lanterman House museum were filled with picnic-goers, most of whom were wearing clothing from the early 1900s. The event, themed "Summer Whites Picnic and Ukulele Rendezvous," evoked the time period when the pioneer Lanterman family built their home. The museum also held its annual open house, which this year included a special exhibit of artworks from members of the Verdugo Hills Art Association.
As Sunday evening arrived, Memorial Park filled with residents from around the foothills, eager to see the night's display of fireworks, provided courtesy of the Allen Lund Co. Before tucking into a barbecue meal offered by the La Cañada Flintridge Chamber of Commerce, the crowd stood while an American flag was raised on a county Fire Department hook and ladder truck while the La Cañada High School Jazz Band played "The Star-Spangled Banner."
The band played on throughout the dinner hours, occasionally featuring student vocalists and at points enticing audience members to stand and dance.
Once the sun was down, the fireworks show choreographed to patriotic tunes began, to the obvious delight of onlookers.
Aside from the Memorial Day service on Monday, Dietel said he enjoyed the weekend's other offerings.
"It's a great community event," he said. "It makes you really proud to be an American."
Carol Cormaci contributed to this report.