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May 20, 2009 > God Bless America, God Bless Union City

God Bless America, God Bless Union City

By Simon Wong
Photos By Mike Heightchew

Union City displayed all that is good about America on May 16. The City's 50th Anniversary Parade, the Classic Car Show at Charles F. Kennedy Park and the 16th Annual Asian-American Heritage Festival, an affiliated event sponsored by the Asian American Federation of California, were celebrations of civic pride, diversity and unity.

UC50 Chair Helen Kennedy and her team of volunteers have donated countless hours to plan the year's calendar of 50th Anniversary events, backed by sponsors and donors who pledged their support more two years ago and honored them despite the subsequent economic downturn. They brought the City's community, neighbors and friends together.

The Parade, which seemed to be over so quickly, lasted for 90 minutes. The Island Thunder Motorcycle Club opened proceedings as they roared past the review stand occupied by City Manager Larry Cheeves and Deputy City Manager and Leisure Services Director Tony Acosta, the event's announcers.

Spectators, quenching their thirst with 2,000 bottles of water donated by the Sikh community, lined Alvarado-Niles Rd to witness this beloved piece of Americana. Sixty balloons, banners, floats and participants represented the City and worlds of battle re-enactment, business, children and youth, community programs, culture and diversity, education, entertainment, environmental protection, equestrianism, health and medicine, history, military service, motorbikes and motor cars, non-profits, politics, public safety (fire and police), religion, seniors and sports. Biographical details were heard as each passed the review stand.

Immediate neighbors helped Union City celebrate. Fremont's American High School Eagles Marching Band played; Irvington Business Association's, Gurdwara Sahib's and the City of Newark's "Magic" floats glided past. Alameda School District's Cougar Cadet Corps and San Leandro's Chinese Christian School Drill Team demonstrated their skills.

The sound, spectacle, precision and pride of the participants were appreciated by those fortunate enough to watch the best parade in the City's history. Those who missed this event must wait a decade for the next one. Union City organizes a parade only every 10 years.

"This event would not have been possible without the City's help," said Helen Kennedy.

The goodwill was also found at the Classic Car Show in Kennedy Park. Members of car clubs showed off beautifully restored and maintained vintage and custom cars. Union City born-and-bred Junior Purtas, a low rider since 1980, exhibited his 1985 Cadillac.

"I've always liked the low-rider style. I purchased this vehicle in stock condition from a colleague and added rims and other custom features. This is my second car," he said.

Purtas belongs to Union City's Familia Car Club. Founded 2 years ago by second-generation low rider Pete Miramontes Jr, who owns his father's car, there are only 8 members but the sense of belonging and shared passion makes it worthwhile.

The sentiment was echoed by representatives of the 18-month old Bloodline West Coast Motorcycle Club which has 20 members. Bikes are purchased and then "flipped" or converted.

"We have a lot of rides around the Bay Area and display at car shows. Bikes represent family," said Juice.

The Southern Alameda County Buddhist Church hosted the 2009 Asian American Heritage Festival and shared the day's sense of community.

Boy Scout Troop 20 presented The Flag, Kiley Tchang sang the National Anthem and John Hsieh, one of the event's organizers, delivered the opening message. Clergy and lay preachers, including Myrla Raymundo from Our Lady of the Rosary, offered prayers from five different ministries. Mayor Mark Green, Councilman Manny Fernandez, Thomas Chen, Director General of the Taipei Economic & Cultural Office in San Francisco, Assemblyman Alberto Torrico and other community leaders spoke of cultural diversity, opportunity and unity.

Almost six hours of cultural entertainment, performed by Union City and Tri-City area residents, followed the opening ceremony. Song, dance, music, martial arts and percussion from Burma, China, India, Japan, Korea, the Middle East, Philippines, Polynesia, Taiwan and Thailand raised awareness of the City's true cultural diversity.

Filipino dance and colorful costumes, stirring Taiko drums played by Wakaido Newark, skilled Kendo combatants and the ukulele's lilting strains were part of a varied program and opportunities to learn about and appreciate what others have to offer.

The organizers of Union City's 50th Anniversary celebrations need the community's continued support. Visit for more details about planned events, volunteer opportunities, sponsorship and donations. Commemorative items are available online, at Paddy's Coffee Shop and at UC50 events.

Parade Participants:

Island Thunder Motorcycle Club
Car Show Banner
Los Lobos Car Club
Bay Bombs Car Club
Royal Cruisers Car Club
50th Anniversary Parade Lead Banner
Eagle Scouts of America Color Guard
James Logan High School Marching Band & Color Guard
Birthday Cake Balloon
City of Union City Banner
City of Union City Float
United States Army Color Guard
Grand Marshal Vicky Galindo
Alameda County Sheriff's Mounted Posse
Senator Ellen Corbett
Honorary Grand Marshals Annie Morales & Pat McNamara
Honorary Grand Marshal Heidi Kitayama
Honorary Grand Marshal Kari McVeigh
Tri-City Voice Banner
Phil Sheridan Camp #4, Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War Marchers
La Societe des 40 Hommes et 8 Chevaux Float
Union City Leisure Services/Special Olympics Vehicle
Ollin Anahuac Traditional Aztec Dancers
NHUSD Kids First Program Float
Family of Clowns
Pathways to Wellness Float
Finelite Banner
Highland Warriors-Kingdom of the Gael
Alma Via Assisted Living
Union City Fire Department Truck with Al Rose and Chief Carlos Rodrigues
Fremont Education Foundation Marching Band
Fremont Bank Banner
American Flag Balloon
Delaine Eastin Elementary School Color Guard
Raggs Character
Pacific West Gymnastics
New Haven Schools Foundation Float
WHCI Plumbing Banner
Double O.D Ranch Equestrian
Rotary Club of F.U.N. - Fremont, Union City, Newark
Wat Buddhanusorn Thai Temple, Fremont
Tri-Ced Banner
Tri-Ced Community Recycling Floats (2)
Friends of Sister Cities
Boy Scouts of America
Brake-Away A's Model A Ford Car Club
Union City Girl Scouts
Crowne Plaza Hotel Banner
American High School Eagles Marching Band, Fremont
Lions Club Banner
Lion Courage Balloon
Lions Club BBQ Banner
Jazzercise Club, Holly Community Center
Purple Lotus Buddhist School and Temple Float
Washington Hospital Banner
Washington Hospital Mobile Health Clinic
Chinese Christian School Drill Team, San Leandro
Irvington Business District Float
Southern Wine & Spirits Banner
La Comision Honorifica Mexicana
Gurdwara Sahib Float, Fremont
NUMMI Banner
Emergency Vehicle Owners & Operators with Police Chief Greg Stewart
Bay Area Gymnastics
Flor de Mexico Float
Union City Girls Softball Association
Allied Waste Banner
Cougar Cadet Corps
Mission Valley Veterinary Clinic
Raising Cane Equine Therapy equestrian group
Paddy's Coffee House Float
SDES de Alvarado
Avalon Union City Banner
Mexico Soccer League
Union City Wing Chun Student Association
Washington Township Historical Society, Fremont
City of Newark "Magic" Float
Teriyaki Experience Banner
Renegades Drum & Bugle Corps, San Francisco
Conrad Celebration Beaver Balloon

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