A view from the parade

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Ojai Valley News photo by Perry Van Houten

New Ojai Valley News reporter Grant Phillips, wearing an old-fashioned newspaper carrier bag, waves to the crowd at the July 3 Ojai Independence Day Parade on Ojai Avenue, while OVN Publisher Laura Rearwin Ward holds the flag Phillips fashioned from past OVN editions. Driving the decorated
convertible is Bob Ward.


Grant Phillips, Ojai Valley News Reporter

Having moved to Ojai just over a year ago, I felt phony waving a flag made up of old editions of the Ojai Valley News that I had fashioned into Old Glory, but had no hand in writing. 

As a new Ojai Valley News reporter, I had published only a handful of articles and was nervous to join in on the timeless tradition that is the Ojai Valley Independence DayParade. 

Was this an unofficial welcoming? Or was I still an outsider, imposing on a town’s traditions? Much of the trepidation subsided at the sight of families, horses, neighbors, farmers, spiritual guides and goats walking the streets with smiling faces. 

I was greeted with back-in-fashion handshakes and introduced to several members of the community who I had only observed through City Council meetings. I handed out the parade edition of the OVN to eager residents and visitors who wanted to learn about the community as much as I did. I heard stories about past floods, parades and family trees that stemmed all the way back to Ojai’s origins.

By the time we passed the Post Office Tower, I felt at home. 

Looking out onto the sea of strangers, I saw individual faces begin to emerge. I recognized them from walks along the bike path, from trips to the Farmers’ Markets, from standing underneath the shade of the Pergola listening to local musicians playing at Libbey Park. 

As I waved, I started to see everyone not as strangers, but as extended family, acommunity of helpers who all want the best for their town. 

As we rounded Park Road, a sudden sense of relief came over me, similar to what the Pink Moment provides at sunset. I feltwelcomed, but with that, a responsibility, one that comes with the lack of anonymity that is both the joy and curse of living in a small town. It was my duty to return the favor. With their welcome, I was obliged to contribute, to offer my services to the community not just through the OVN, but through kindness and unconditional understanding — the kind that comes not just from reporting honestly, but from slowing down and smiling at every  passing neighbor on the street.

— Grant Phillips of Ojai is the new reporter for the Ojai Valley News.


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