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Residents of Louisville’s California neighborhood celebrate 33rd California Day

Kids participate in the basketball clinic at the annual California Day celebration, put on by the DELTA Foundation, which also provides kids with academic resources.
Sylvia Goodman
/
LPM
Kids participate in the basketball clinic at the annual California Day celebration, put on by the DELTA Foundation, which also provides kids with academic resources.

Current and former residents of Louisville’s California neighborhood gathered Saturday for the California Day celebration, a chance to connect with neighbors and old friends.

Around the edges of California Park, vendors gave away lemonade, funnel cakes, hot dogs; volunteers helped kids onto horses for rides or showed them exotic reptiles and birds; and local nonprofits held basketball and tennis clinics.

For 33 years, current and former residents of Louisville’s California Neighborhood have gathered at the park on the last Saturday in August for California Day, a celebration of the neighborhood and chance for neighbors and former residents to connect with one another.

Mar’Kesha Smith organized this year’s event and it was her grandmother who founded it in 1990.

“I helped her haul food and tablecloths up the street to share food with anyone in the neighborhood that needed food for that day,” Smith said.

When her grandmother grew ill about 5 years ago, she was no longer able to organize it. Even without a formal organizer, people would still come to the park and celebrate together every year.

After her grandmother died in 2020, Smith decided to carry on her legacy and again organize free food, vendors and activities for California Day.

“Everything I do, it’s for her, to preserve the history,” Smith said. “I know she left this for me to continue to do.”

A little girl gets on a horse for the first time at the annual California Day celebration. Organizers arranged horse rides for kids around the park, various food vendors and sports clinics.
Sylvia Goodman
/
LPM
A little girl gets on a horse for the first time at the annual California Day celebration. Organizers arranged horse rides for kids around the park, various food vendors and sports clinics.

Aretha Fuqua is the president of the West Louisville Tennis Club, which helped put on a clinic at the event.

“Oh my god, girl. I grew up as a little baby, 6 years old, at 1510 West St. Catherine,” Fuqua said, pointing to a house just down the street. “This is home for me — home, home.”

Fuqua loves coming to California Day to meet others who grew up there too. She said it’s also not a bad way to score a free Cali Dog. According to Ricky Holt, owner of Big Rick’s Backyard Barbeque, who provided the hotdogs for the event, a Cali Dog is barbeque ground beef and coleslaw over a turkey dog.

20 year-old Remontrez Tarpin said he’s lived in California all his life. He played basketball with his friends Saturday and drank lemonade to cool down. Tarpin said that every year the event seems to grow and he meets new people from the neighborhood.

“I come to this almost every year,” Tarpin said. “It’s just a fun place to gather if you’re from around this neighborhood, for real for real.”

Sylvia is the Capitol reporter for Kentucky Public Radio, a collaboration including Louisville Public Media, WEKU-Richmond, WKU Public Radio and WKMS-Murray. Email her at sgoodman@lpm.org.