Several hundred brave heat for Boddy barbecue

The smell of barbecue, sounds of swing music and the legend of Manchester Boddy drew hundreds of visitors from across the Los Angeles area to La Cañada's Descanso Gardens Monday for Boddy's Big Backyard, an annual event at the gardens.

While children rode ponies and kids of all ages toured the gardens on the Enchanted Railroad, some families shared picnics on the lawn and listened to Verdugo Swing Society play music from the 1930s and '40s. Others took time to smell the flowers in the rose garden or share a shady bench by the koi pond.

The event has been a tradition in La Cañada since back in the 1930s when then-gardens owner Manchester Boddy hosted an annual barbecue and picnic for his neighbors and friends. Descanso Gardens has continued the event through the years, for a minimal admission charge, adding art and craft activities for the children, and food booths, as well as farm animals and other crowd pleasers.

For the past four years, visitors to the event have been greeted at the gate by Descanso's lead horticulturist, Wayne Walker, and his wife, Valla, who dress and act to portray Boddy and one of his friends.

“Where's Uncle Joe? Couldn't he make it this year?” Valla Walker asked a guest, as she pretended to know every family who passed her way. “This is what makes it all fun,” she added. “We're all family and friends.”

Fun was the theme of the day, despite the record-breaking heat spell. “We usually have between and 1,000 and 2,000 who come to the event, but this year, with the heat, we're a little low on attendance,” Wayne Walker said. “It really is hot.”

But the heat didn't bother 3 ½-year-old Remi Valdes who tipped his cowboy hat as he rode past a crowd while sitting atop a black pony named Bullseye. Remi attended the event with his mom, Katie; dad, Rene, and sibling Desi, 6 months.

Steve and Mercy Powell of Pasadena watched as their twin 2-year-olds, Evan and Natalie, pointed at fish in the koi pond.

“They're having all kinds of fun,” Steve's mom, Frances Powell said. “This is a wonderful place for families.”

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