I was recently at the home of one of my professors from college on the west side of LA and we were learning how to use steady-cams. For those unfamiliar with motion picture equipment, it’s the device that allows the camera to track actors as they walk down the street, throughout rooms, and run from bloodthirsty zombies. So, we’re at Mattheus’ house and he’s telling us how, as he gets older, it’s become more difficult to have experiences that produce that feeling of awe and that have a lasting impression on him as things did when he was younger. I’m glad I’m not at that place yet, and hope I never get there, because this weekend, I was struck with awe, when I remembered that I was a frequent patron of Inglewood’s quiet and cozy North Park as a kid and had since forgot the park existed.
I arrived at North Park around 11:30am and parked across the street near the church parking lot, grabbed my gear, and headed toward the gate where the party was just getting started. Councilman Alex Padilla brought the community out for the 3rd Annual District 2 Picnic and Chili Cook-Off. Booths lined the fences and kids were already running around preparing that heavy crash on the drive home that us parents both love and hate because someone has to carry them out the car to the house, and most of the time it’s us dads.
As I look around at the park, I’m taken back, not just seeing the number of people working collectively, because that’s becoming an essential component of the “New Inglewood,” but at the sense that I had somehow been here before. Was it déjà vu?
I looked around some more and it was the hill that leads to the North Inglewood Pumping Station that I remembered vividly running up as a kid. Then I looked over at the slides and newly renovated bathrooms and instantly teleported back to 1997 when my family and I were residents of Fairview Heights on Brett Street at 586 ½, biking, skating, walking and running to the park at least 4 to 5 times a week to hang out and get that quick snap of electricity as I slid down the slides.
I immediately shared my nostalgic sentiments with Anne La Rose who was just as delighted to learn that we shared a common history and pointed me to the beautiful North Park mural which wasn’t there in ‘97, nor were the public restrooms, or the newly renovated Kaboom playground. However, this was still the park that I loved as a kid.
After reminiscing for several moments at the beauty of how things change, and we change over time, I remembered that I had a job to do.
The District 2 Annual Picnic and Chili Cook-Off, put together by Councilman Alex Padilla and his talented and dedicated committee Selene Quiroz, Patricia Sanchez, Mari Morales, Ramon Quinones, Stella Padilla and Diane Omori, was a huge success.
There was a variety of food other than chili, from hot dogs, pizza, fresh fruit, spaghetti, salads, root beer floats, frozen yogurt, popcorn, and a plethora of different refreshments. I was certain there was a fee for something if not all of it, and to my surprise, it was absolutely FREE to the community.
As the music blared, residents and guests arrived in droves to try the lineup of chili recipes from local chefs, kids played tug-of-war, jump rope, got their faces painted, hopped in potato sack races, and sat quietly for story time.
The cool ocean breeze gave us just the relief needed as the warm sun dominated most of the day, and as the day concluded, and the people were stuffed to the rim, you couldn’t ask for a better place to lay a blanket and grab a quick nap in the shade, all qualities we cherish in our favorite parks.
I enjoyed myself so much, I brought my kids back the very next day, proud to show them where I grew up, and played.
The City of Inglewood’s very own Yakema Decatur was hailed as the “Chili Champion” of 2015, followed by D’Nez Westmoreland and Anne La Rose, and George Padilla taking home 2nd and 3rd Place trophies. It had to have been very close in the votes because the chili of Terri Bailey, Diane Omori, Hugh Mong, Lee Robinson Sr., and Luis Hernandez of the LA County Fire Department were on fleek also!
Salute to Councilman Alex Padilla for continuously creating opportunities to bring the community together, a topic he campaigned on and has followed through with during his time in office.
If you haven’t had the opportunity to stop by North Park, you don’t have to wait until you smell Yakema’s chili wafting in the wind next year, just drive on over today, lay down your blanket, and grab a book from the free library cabinet near the playground and make a date of it. Thank me later.
To see the short documentary film on the event, visit www.inglewoodtoday.com.