EAST PALO ALTO (CBS SF) — It is a day of celebration Saturday in East Palo Alto, where residents are planning a parade, a community festival and a fireworks show to mark their city’s 29th birthday.

East Palo Alto used to be an unincorporated area of San Mateo County, and became a city in 1983 after a ballot measure proposing its incorporation barely squeaked by.

“When we incorporated in 1983, we won by 15 votes,” Vice Mayor Ruben Abrica said.

Abrica served on East Palo Alto’s first City Council at the age of 33, then returned to the council decades later.

Several years ago, when he was serving as mayor, he proposed celebrating the city’s birthday annually, rather than just on the big years like the 10th and 20th anniversaries.

“The idea is just to bring the whole community together — all of our different communities together — and celebrate our independence, you might say,” Abrica said.

The day is kicking off with an 11 a.m. parade down University Avenue, followed by a community festival from noon to 4 p.m. in Bell Street Park at 500 Bell St.

Tonight, after the sun goes down, there will be a fireworks show at Cesar Chavez Academy at 2450 Ralmar Ave. The fireworks should be visible from most spots in East Palo Alto, since the city takes up only two and a half square miles, Abrica said.

He said East Palo Alto was “born under a struggle,” and that its toughness in the face of challenges over the years has come to define it.

“That’s who we are, we keep struggling and making progress,” he said.

Abrica said he has seen a number of improvements over the years, including the addition of a major shopping center, more jobs and better roads.

He said dozens of church, sports and community groups will be taking part in today’s celebration, which is hosted by himself and Mayor Laura Martinez.

“This is a day for all of us to feel proud of being East Palo Altans,” he said.

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco and Bay City News Service. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)


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