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For 4th, Panorama Mall Spells Patriotism B-E-E

Operators of the shopping center will reprise the popular spring spelling contest in honor of the holiday.


Next week, Valley kids will be able to celebrate the Fourth of July in a serious way, but also indulge in some serious mall crawling while they are at it. That's because, between July 4 and 7, the operators of the Panorama Mall will put on a patriotic version of the popular spelling bee they usually stage each spring.

According to Louise Marquez, the mall's marketing manager, response to a spelling contest held there in April--with contestants from the nearby San Fernando Gardena public housing project in Pacoima--was so enthusiastic that the main sponsor decided to put on another event right away.

"We have 5,000 kids in the neighborhood who live close enough to walk to the mall, so we decided to do something for the Fourth," Marquez said. Kids visiting the mall next week will find a booth in the central court festooned with "Catch the Spirit" banners, where they can test their wits answering questions about U.S. history.

So, who's the main sponsor? Hint: While answering the history questions, kids will be able to use resources at a World Book Educational Products display inside the booth. Similar booths for other events, which featured a geography quiz and operated at the Broadway Mall downtown and at Crenshaw Plaza Mall, were so popular that Marquez is expecting a good Valley turnout next week.

Every participant will receive a "Catch the Spirit" sticker. Anyone who gets a given number of questions right receives a folder to take home containing parchment-like reproductions of famous documents like the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights and the Pledge of Allegiance.

* "Catch the Spirit," Panorama Mall Main Court, at Roscoe and Van Nuys boulevards, 10 a.m.-6 p.m July 4.; 10 a.m.-9 p.m. July 5; 10 a.m.-7 p.m. July 6 ; 11 a.m.-6 p.m. July 7. Free. Call (818) 894-9258.


Safe Fireworks: For generations, the holiday has been celebrated in the Valley with a display in Northridge that bills itself as "America's Best Fireworks Spectacular."

Safety, not just pyrotechnics, has been one of the factors drawing thousands to Northridge for the event. "It's a safe alternative to hand-held sparklers, and the admission cost is about the same," says Tracy Gilbert, spokeswoman for the event.

True. Especially so if, after mowing your backyard in the days following the holiday, you've discovered the difficulty of extracting the tangled remains of spent sparklers from your lawn mower.

Another positive aspect of the event is the presence of a carnival midway with food booths, which means you can dodge having to fire up the backyard barbecue and there is no clean up afterward.

This year's event will provide another alternative for celebrating the Fourth. Among the booths on the midway will be one dedicated to making "video postcards"--so folks can send greetings to American troops on peacekeeping duties. Hundreds of Valley people are still serving overseas, according to Deputy Chief Kathy Ross, the U.S. Army's Los Angeles public affairs spokeswoman.

* "America's Best Fireworks Spectacular," North Campus Stadium of Cal State Northridge, at Zelzah Avenue and Devonshire Street, opens at 2 p.m., fireworks at 9 p.m. Adults $8, kids $5. Tickets available at Panorama, Fallbrook and Northridge malls plus Granada Hills, Chatsworth and Northridge chambers of commerce. Call (818) 716-7111.


Alternative Picnic: Last week's column was devoted to the spread of the vegetarian lifestyle in the Valley. Here's an item about a vegetarian potluck picnic July 13 at Lake Balboa park. Why are we announcing this so early? Well, Lisa Harris, organizer of the Valley Vegetarian Kids Club, says that a peek into the typical picnic basket at one of her events might yield some food ideas for any family interested in what she calls a "safe and sane" Fourth of July celebration.

Here are some picnic makings she says you can find at Valley supermarkets and specialty stores: soybean dogs on whole-wheat buns; veggie burgers on sprouted-wheat buns; potato salad made with beets and canola oil instead of eggs and mayo; watermelon (organic, of course); low-fat chips and salsa; corn on the cob; and non-caffeine iced tea.

* Potluck picnic by Valley Vegetarian Kids Club, 10 a.m.-noon July 13, Lake Balboa park, at Sepulveda Dam Recreation Area, Encino. Call (213) 969-9308.

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