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September 16, 2009 > Union City knows how to celebrate

Union City knows how to celebrate

By Simon Wong
Photos By Mike Heightchew

Helen Kennedy, the board of UC50, a team of 200 community volunteers, generous sponsors and donors and city employees did their fellow citizens proud at James Logan High School Stadium on Saturday, September 12. The Union City Concert and Fireworks Spectacular, the penultimate "big" 50th anniversary community event, has been recorded for posterity and a copy will be placed in the anniversary time capsule.

Three-years in the making, the event was the crowning-glory in a calendar of celebration. UC50 assembled a bill of top performers, a superb stage set, managed by Chuck Kennedy, jumbotron and sound system. A truly spectacular 45-minute fireworks display, created by Union City resident Jess Martinez and his pyrotechnic team, captivated spectators.

Mayor Mark Green, Vice-Mayor Carol Dutra-Vernaci, Councilmen Manny Fernandez and Jim Navarro and Delaine Eastin, a former Union City council member who went on to represent the 20th District in the California Assembly and to serve as State Superintendent of Public Instruction, addressed the audience throughout the evening.

Union City boy scouts presented the colors under the auspices of Bill Fournell. Jumoke Hill, Union City resident, American Idol contestant and organizer of the city's Teen Idol Competition, sang the national anthem.

Sage, a quartet consisting of drums, bass guitar and two ukuleles, originates from Hawaii but are now San Francisco-based. They performed several songs including tracks from their first album which they have just recorded on the island. These musicians somehow make the ukulele sing and dance and mesmerized the audience with their sounds and upbeat energy. Their compositions are a blend of hip hop, jazz, reggae and rhythm and blues which could be detected during their performance.

Priya Vijakumar, Union City Teen Idol 2009, and Jazleen Serrano, a fellow competitor, enchanted everyone. It has been quite a year for both. The audience placed Vijakumar first when she competed in the Fremont Teen Talent Showcase in February. Both give stronger performances whenever they appear publicly.

Beatbox/accapella group Boyz Nite Out sang hits from the 1950s to the present, without instruments. They not only employed vocals to sing the songs and harmonies but Eugene Rocha, the "human drum," accompanied his four group members by mimicking musical instruments such as percussion and brass. The audience delighted when Boyz Nite Out performed requests including early Michael Jackson, Lion King and The Beatles.

The evening's highlight for the teens was Questcrew, Season 3 winner of MTV's America's Best Dance Crew. Screaming girls flocked to the front of the stage, holding their cameras aloft eager for a snapshot of their idols. The dance routines were polished and impressive and generated an ever-increasing volume of appreciation from their fans. Dance is most definitely their forte judging by the audience's reaction.

The best was saved until last. Beach Boys Tribute Band, aka as California's Band, Papa Doo Run Run entertained the older generation with complex harmonies, melodies and instrumentals as they sang cover versions of Beach Boys hits. The line-up includes Jeffrey Foskett and Adrian Baker, former members of the Beach Boys. Founded 40 years ago, they only began performing surf music publicly in 1971, when it was no longer popular, whilst extending their opening for another band which was late. The songs, with which they had experimented privately, proved a hit. Union City concert-goers were equally appreciative and took to the aisles during their 40-minute appearance.

The night's finale consisted of a firework spectacular accompanied by classic rock. The display was impressive for its timing and coordination, its proximity, the color, bursts and formation. This was evidenced by the crowd's applause and sounds of wonderment and appreciation.

"My father-in-law had the pyrotechnic skills, so I married his daughter. That's how I learned to create a fireworks display," joked Martinez.

Kennedy and her team have given selflessly of themselves to celebrate and commemorate Union City's 50th Anniversary and to restore a sense of community. UC50 is only $50,000 shy of its fund-raising target.

In case anyone has not participated, there is the opportunity to attend Tim Swenson's historical lectures at Union City Library on September 26, October 17 and November 14 and a New Year's Eve Celebration on December 31.

For more information, sponsorship and volunteer opportunities, visit Commemorative items can be purchased online, at UC50 events and at Paddy's Coffee Shop.

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