“Celebrating a Different Kind of 4th” was the theme for this year’s Fourth of July in Pacific Palisades. The day traditionally begins with the Will Rogers 5/10K races, followed by a VIP luncheon, the parade and the evening concert and fireworks.
Covid-19 and closures stopped everything – except for the spirit of Palisades residents.
Undeterred, the parade organizing committee (Palisades Americanism Parade Association) selected the Fire Captains and personnel from Fire Stations 23 and 69 to serve as the honorary parade marshals.
Now, the Will Rogers Race committee, under founder and director Brian Shea, has presented a race shirt to the 54 men/women who work at the stations in Pacific Palisades.
These individuals are generally on call during the race, parade and fireworks, so this was the perfect way — and year — to honor them.
“We usually cheer the runners on,” said firefighter Sal Castellion, who has worked here eight years. “I got a shirt and it’s not like it was cheating that I didn’t run.”
“It was an honor that we were chosen as parade marshals,” said Captain Paul Egizi, who told Shea, “We appreciated that you guys thought of us.”
There are plenty of opportunities for the firefighters to wear their shirts during daily exercises.
When the fire alarm suddenly went off during the photos on July 24, Egizi explained that firefighters at Station 58 had gone out on a call in the Century City area, and that Engine 69 was going to cover that station.
Egizi said that Covid-19 has had a major impact on fire station procedures and their first responders.
Right now, it appears that even though City cuts across the board will happen, the fire department may be okay.
“The fire department has really stepped up to the plate for Covid-19 with test sites and running the 911 calls,” Egizi said, noting that Station 69 Captain Thomas Kitahata has been manning a Covid-19 testing station for months.
Shea said the idea to give shirts to the firefighters was actually “Pat Peters’ idea when he saw them [Station 69 members] sitting out front on the Fourth of July.”
When the race started in 1978, race founders Shea, Chris Carlson and Bill Klein needed special assistance from LAFD. (Shea and Carlson came up with the idea of a Fourth of July race in the Palisades after running the Brentwood l0K on Memorial Day in 1977.)
During the 1997 race, 54-year-old Palisadian Bob Heilemann suffered a cardiac arrest but was revived by a medical team led by Station 69 paramedic Dane Coyle.
Generally, about 3,000 runners participate in the 5/10K races and all receive shirts with the entry fee. This year the shirts were purchased before Covid-19 caused all crowd-related activities to be cancelled.
Shea said that in addition to firefighters, they plan to give shirts to local market employees at Ralphs and Gelson’s and to medical staff at St. John’s Hospital, who worked and continue to work during the pandemic.
It’s not too late to get a race shirt—and support the race for next year. They can be purchased at the Palisades Garden Café on Antioch.