Pleasanton Weekly

Opinion - July 2, 2010

Celebrate the Fourth in Pleasanton

"Cherish Your Heritage" is the theme of this year's 12th annual Fourth of July community picnic and Independence Day celebration in Lions Wayside park at Neal and First streets, traditionally one of the best family events in the Bay Area. Still the work of a small, but distinguished all-volunteer committee, it's a chance for all age groups to grab a blanket or folding chair and enjoy 1-1/2 hours of non-stop patriotic band music, songs and special entertainment. This year, the event starts at 12:30 p.m. with sign-off at 2 p.m. sharp, giving everyone a chance to join in the patriotic festivities while still having plenty of time for those afternoon July 4 barbecues.

Providing the music will be the Pleasanton Community Concert Band, under the direction of Bob Williams. This year marks the 35th anniversary of the establishment of the band, which played its first concert at the park's bandstand. Vocalist Ward Belding, as "Uncle Sam," will be featured along with Pleasanton Poet Laureate Deborah Grossman, who has composed an original poem for the occasion -- "Boots on First." This year's special guest will be award-winning speaker Ann Collins, whose presentation is entitled "Cherish Your Heritage." Ken McDonald will serve as master of ceremonies. A special tribute also will be paid to the military, with a color guard from Pleasanton's American Legion Post 238 and Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6298 posting the colors, followed by the National Anthem. This is the 100th anniversary of the founding of Boy Scouts and members of Pleasanton Troop 908 will help with the set-up and clean-up as part of their community service.

As part of the program three community leaders will be recognized as recipients of the Ed Kinney Community Patriot Award: Brad Hirst, Dave Wright, and Rosiland Wright. Brad Hirst moved to Pleasanton in 1967 and within a year was serving on a committee to review and update the city's General Plan. Since then he has volunteered hundreds, if not thousands, of hours serving on civic, city and business endeavors including Pleasanton's planning commission (1969-72) and its Economic Development committee (1992-2000). He was also the finance chairman of the public celebration of the city's 75th birthday in 1969 event, and was chairman of its 100th birthday celebration in 1994.

Longtime resident Dave Wright taught at Chabot College for 10 years before transferring to Las Positas College, where he taught until 1999. He was part of the original faculty at Las Positas, in what he describes as a "pioneer effort," when the school had only four buildings and 15 faculty members. He served as the chair of the humanities and arts department for five years and became president of the academic senate before his retirement. He was also a founding member of Pleasanton's civic arts commission, serving on that group from 1997-2002 and has been involved in establishing the city's poet laureate program. Since 1979, he has been an active member of the Pleasanton Cultural Arts Council, serving three terms as president. He also served on the task force to help build the Firehouse Arts Center, which will open in September, and, in 2006, received the Arts Council's award as "Arts Supporter of the Year."

Rosiland Wright's contributions are just as impressive. An advocate for senior citizens, the arts, and history, she shares her husband Dave's enthusiasm for community volunteerism. Until her retirement in 2003, she was a medical social worker in skilled care facilities. This meant that she was the patients' advocate and the mandated reporter if she found instances of elder abuse. She also was responsible for discharge planning, making sure that patients being sent home would have adequate care to fully recover and maintain their health. She was the executive director of the Diablo Foundation for Aging for five years and now serves on the Alameda County Commission on Aging, the group that is overseeing allocations under the California Older Americans Act.

Sunday's community picnic at Lions Wayside Park offers all of us a chance to celebrate Independence Day together while also honoring these extraordinary Pleasanton volunteers.

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