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Valley Perspective

Community Pride on Display

April 22, 2001

The northeast San Fernando Valley has its share of problems, as the above editorial on the need for health care services makes clear. Some of its neighborhoods are among the poorest in Los Angeles.

But the northeast Valley is also home to well-kept and tight-knit communities, places where people know their neighbors and take pride in their neighborhoods. That community pride will be on display today at the California Fiesta in Mission Hills' Brand Park, opposite the San Fernando Mission.

Organized by Los Angeles City Councilman Alex Padilla, who grew up in Pacoima and now represents the northeast Valley, and sponsored by the Los Angeles Cultural Affairs Department, today's daylong gala is a revival of an old tradition, but with a modern twist.

In its agricultural heyday, the Valley celebrated an annual festival of fruits and flowers. With the Valley's orchards long gone, today's California Fiesta celebrates the accomplishments of the area's residents. Along with music, food booths, children's rides and a classic car show, there will be accolades for home-grown artists, authors and athletes.

Honored will be the late Ritchie Valens, whose long-deserved induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame took place in March; actor Jacob Vargas, fresh from a role in the Academy Award-winning film "Traffic," and stand-up comic and morning drive-time radio disc jockey George Lopez.

World champion kick boxers Benny "The Jet" Urquidez and William "Blinky" Rodriguez, who is also known for his work with gangs, will be on hand, as will Heisman Trophy winner Charles White, who, before his USC stardom and NFL career, was part of a star-studded quartet known as the dream backfield at San Fernando High School.

"People from the northeast Valley are perceived as gang members or drug dealers," said producer and director Rick Munoz, who grew up in Pacoima and is producing the festival. "On the contrary, there are a lot of people who have accomplished a lot in their lives. They've done positive things. We have a lot of successful business people--doctors, lawyers--positive role models for not just the 7th District, but all of Los Angeles."

Such recognition will extend beyond a once-a-year festival, if Padilla's plans are realized. The city's Cultural Heritage Commission is reviewing his proposal to create a cultural center in the park that, in conjunction with the mission, would feature the area's history and art, much like Barnsdall Art Park in Hollywood or Plaza de la Raza and El Pueblo in East Los Angeles. Memory Gardens, a Craftsman-like garden area just west of the park, is already slated for refurbishment. And--first things first--the park's permanent restrooms, long closed and awaiting repairs, should be reopened by Labor Day.

Today's fiesta gets the plan off to a good start.

*

To attend: The California Fiesta takes place from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Brand Park, 15174 San Fernando Mission Road, Mission Hills.

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