A crowd estimated at a record-high 1,000 turned out yesterday for the 11th annual Fourth of July picnic and Independence Day celebration at Lions Wayside Community Park in downtown Pleasanton.
Called "Celebrating Freedom and its Evolution since the Revolution," the free event is the only midday program in the popular Concerts in the Park series sponsored by the Pleasanton Downtown Association.
As with the other concerts, fans started reserving their spots early in the day by placing blankets or lawn chairs at desired locations. By noon when the festivities began, more than 1,000 were there, with at least 200 comfortably seated under covered canopies provided by Wal-Mart of Pleasanton. W. Ron Sutton, founder of the event and owner of Accusplit of Livermore, a sponsor, co-produced this year's show with Jerri Pantages Long, a retired Pleasanton school administrator.
Among the special performances were patriotic songs played by the Pleasanton Community Concert Band, under the direction of Bob Williams, and patriotic and historical messages and solos by Ward Belding, who was dressed in his traditional Uncle Sam costume.
The American, California and other flags were posted by a color guard of Pleasanton's American Legion Post 238 and its Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6298, with the "Pledge of Allegiance" led by Scout Troop 908.
A portion of the program was dedicated to the men and women of Pleasanton who are serving in the armed forces with veterans of the Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marines and Navy asked to stand as the music of their organizations was played. There was also a moment of silence to honor those who had worked on the annual celebration before their deaths: Ed Kinney, Hank Gomez, Elizabeth Hall, Juanita Haugen, Roger McLain and Ormand Eckley.
At the celebration, it was also announced that Barbara Hempill and Ken Mercer had won this year's Ed Kinney Community Patriot awards. The awards are named for Mr. Kinney, a respected civic leader and former mayor and City Councilman, who died in 2005.
Mercer, also a former mayor, was honored for his "influence on the destiny of Pleasanton." During his 10 years on the council, as mayor and as a civic leader before and after his government service, Stoneridge Shopping Center, Hacienda Business Park and Pleasanton Sports Park were planned and developed. Today, Mercer is president of the ValleyCare Health System Foundation.
Hempill was honored for her work in securing decent housing for senior citizens, low-income families and the disabled both in Livermore, where she worked for 21 years, and in Pleasanton, where she and her family have lived since 1971. She continues to volunteer on civic committees.
An all-volunteer effort, this 11th annual Fourth of July picnic and Independence Day celebration had help from the Pleasanton Downtown Associaton. Besides Wal-Mart and Accusplit, other sponsors included Hometown GMAC, Raley's, Heritage Bank of Commerce and the Pleasanton Lions Club.