Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times | Terms of Service | Privacy Policy

Planning the party of the century

Burbank is hosting a celebration for 20,000 guests Friday, and two women have been doing party planning on a level they’ve never experienced before.

Former Burbank City Manager Mary Alvord and current Business District Manager Gail Stewart have attended more than 50 planning meetings, made countless phone calls and coordinated schedules for everyone from F-18 fighter pilots to costumed cartoon characters for the “Party of the Century,” Friday evening’s celebration of Burbank’s centennial as a city.

The event, which runs from 5 to 10 p.m., includes fireworks, live bands on five stages, an F-18 flyover, a mascot parade, special menus from 16 downtown Burbank restaurants, appearances by TV and movie celebrities and a “cupcake extravaganza” hosted by Mickey and Minnie Mouse.

“It’s a lot of logistics,” Stewart said, admitting that for weeks she’s been waking with a start at 3 a.m. as some detail or another springs to mind. “This morning I woke up saying, ‘How are we going to get the shuttle signs to McCambridge Park?’”


Security, transportation and temporary infrastructure are key issues. Stewart and Alvord have worked with the Burbank police, fire and public works departments to coordinate street closures, build stages and booths and supervise deliveries to the party site, which runs along San Fernando Boulevard between Magnolia Boulevard and Olive Avenue.

Some issues have proven sticky, including the bid to get the city’s logo on a jar of Smucker’s strawberry preserves that “The Today Show” personality Willard Scott displays on air each day that features someone celebrating a birthday. NBC officials hesitated at putting a municipal logo on the jar, Stewart said, worried about a potential avalanche of requests from other cities.

But a call from a high-ranking official in NBC’s Burbank campus smoothed the way, Alvord said. The city’s logo will be on the air Friday.

Another tactical problem arose when it turned out the F-18 flyover was to occur at the precise moment emcee Fritz Coleman, a weathercaster at NBC Channel 4, was to give his on-air report live from Burbank.


“You think the F-18s at 1,000 feet are going to be a problem?” Stewart asked rhetorically.

Working with Stewart, Coleman made special arrangements for a slight delay of the Friday night weather report and will not have to shout above the din of the warplanes as they arrive from Bob Hope Airport.

As of last week, Stewart and Alvord were negotiating for the delivery of a wax statue of Bob Hope to be present at the proceedings. Given the high temperatures in recent days, Alvord said, “Hopefully, he doesn’t melt.”

Fortunately for Alvord, the high predicted for Friday is only 83 degrees.

Burbank set aside $75,000 for this year’s centennial celebrations, city spokesman Keith Sterling. More than a dozen businesses — from the movie studios to Providence St. Joseph Medical Center and the Cusumano Real Estate Group — have helped sponsor the event with cash or in-kind services.

“Everybody is stepping up,” Alvord said. “Nobody has said ‘No.’”