Happy 100th Birthday, Burbank?

Burbank, oh Burbank – what was THAT!?

Just two weeks ago I first learned that my fair city of Burbank, California, was going to be celebrating their 100 years of incorporation on July 8, 2011 with the “Party of the Century.” I myself chose to live in beautiful downtown Burbank fourteen years ago when first arriving in Southern California. The city is clean, well-groomed, quiet, and relatively safe. It reminded me of the town in which I grew up in New Jersey.

Burbank’s “Party of the Century” kicked off at 5pm Friday afternoon with the opening of a time capsule containing the history and treasures of the bygone days of 1986. I didn’t get home until 7 from my job in another town, so I missed seeing the mayor pull out a pair of leg warmers and a Born in the U.S.A. album. Missing the opening ceremonies did not dampen my enthusiasm for getting down to the promised giant pedestrian party being held on 4 or 5 blocks of San Fernando and even part of Olive.

While walking to downtown, I could imagine the wafting scents of funnel cake, popcorn and cotton candy. Thoughts of sizzling marinated BBQ were making my mouth water! Finish it off with snow cones, Italian ice or ice cream! Maybe they’ll have bounce houses for the kids! There surely will be a plethora of face painters, balloons, carnival games, contests for families – perhaps a great commemorative T-shirt to buy, maybe local artisans with wares! Will the local equestrian community trot out their horses for pony rides? Or will the LA Zoo next to town have a petting area with non-dangerous animals? All are things one would dare hope for at a great street fair!

Arriving on the Media Center Mall end of the strip, my excitement could hardly contain itself! There were THOUSANDS of people on the street! First thing to see was a stage where some girls were doing a dance demo. Ok, not my speed. Moving forward, there was a line of about 30 people waiting to see a lone balloon animal maker. Oh well, on to see what was beyond that first block. I was on the hunt for a grilled savory piece of meat.

Meat? Not yet. To the left there were three vendors – a honey vendor, fruit, and flowers – three booths common at our weekly Farmer’s Market. Little did I realize at that moment that they were the ONLY vendors at the event selling anything!

The town certainly had the entertainment covered. I’ll grant them that. Total there were 4 1/2 stages with various groups performing. I spoke to the sax player of a zoot-suited band who told me they traveled over from Idaho for our shin dig. Idaho. Not Burbank. Not even from LA.

The tents started at this point. Now I should find those street fair goodies I am looking for. Nope. The tents almost entirely featured Burbank services (library, credit union, fire dept., etc) or businesses that were in some fashion associated with Burbank’s government (airport, Cusumano Real Estate who owns half the town, Lockheed Martin, etc.). Most were just giving away pamphlets advertising their services. If you were lucky, you could get a pin or a stick-on tattoo.

Where was the fun?


Bob "Burbank" Hope

I’m sure the Burbank City Council is slapping themselves on the back – one council member told a friend of mine that 28,000 people were in attendance. If the goal was to support the Burbank businesses who happened to border the party area, then congratulations on a job well-done. There were lines out the door of any restaurant you could find because they were the only source of food or drink (and incapable of handling 10,000 people let alone 28,000).

But this was supposed to be a celebration of our whole city. Why didn’t I see tables of food from longtime Burbank businesses like The Smokehouse, or Chili John’s, or Coral Cafè, or Santoro’s, or Giamela’s, or Riverside Cafè, Bob’s Big Boy (oldest one in the country!), Pinocchio’s, Tony’s Bella Vista, or even that dude down on Magnolia who grills up all kinds of meats on Saturdays for his customers?

Our town is where movies are made. Why didn’t anyone think to construct a giant screen somewhere showing clips of films and TV shows shot on the streets of Burbank? Back to the Future, Clint Eastwood films, Apollo 13, CSI, Parks & Recreation, even Jurassic Park: The Lost World which shot on the very street where we were “partying”.

Where were the family activities to inspire civic pride? How about a William Mulholland Dunk Tank (he built the aqueducts for LA), a Luther Burbank Fruit Smoothie stand, a Luther Burbank look-a-like contest, performances from our local senior center talent show, or one from one of our award-winning high school groups? Maybe a Bob “I used to own Burbank” Hope impersonator doing a USO themed act using Burbankisms as a part of it? NBC, The Walt Disney Company, Warner Bros., ABC, and even Universal Studios all have a leg in Burbank, and the town is home to many of their workers – why didn’t they have a strong presence at the festival?

I did hear that the fireworks were ok. I skipped them. After wandering around for an hour and a half with nothing to do and a grumbling stomach, I was home by 8:45 without having spent a dime and with my spirit crushed that my town had failed my expectations so miserably. The craft fairs held there in the past were more exciting.

So, congratulations on your “Party of the Century” Burbank City Council. Please, next time call it “Party IN a Century” so my expectations won’t possibly have a chance to be dashed.


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