Jerry and Erika Johnson Family
Rancho Cordova's largest annual celebration is the Fourth of July when volunteers transform Hagan Park into our own patriotic wonderland.
Those who actually work on this project don't think of it as a party as much as a miracle!
It's quite an accomplishment. One day you are meandering through Hagan Park alone with your dog and a couple of days later you are there with thousands of people enjoying carnival rides, fireworks, great food and more. A couple days later it disappears just as fast. How do they do it?
They do it with a lot of imagination and hard workers. They do it with about 300 volunteers, including three generations of Erika and Jerry Johnson's family.
Erika and Jerry have been married for 57 years, a romance of nearly six decades that began back in the 1950s in Frankfurt, Germany where Jerry was stationed with the Air Force and Erika was living with her family.
They met and fell in love, and in 1957 Jerry took Erika to America where they lived an Air Force life, and Erika became an American citizen. They had three children, and finally landed near Mather Air Force Base in Rancho Cordova in 1970. It has been home ever since.
The Johnsons started their volunteer career during the Air Force years. As an Air Force wife, Erika was a Family Services volunteer while raising her three young children. Jerry, who was assigned to Air Force computer work when computers were in their infancy, helped
Erika with presentations and symposiums volunteering his technical skills.
We first met the Johnsons about 10 years ago when Erika and Jerry became active in Rancho Cordova Weed and Seed, a project to weed out problems in their neighborhood and seed in good things. Jerry was a volunteer leader in the project and Erika was an energetic worker bee. It was a common sight to see them working on projects to clean up trash and paint over graffiti with grandchildren in tow - showing them how everybody needs to make a contribution to make their neighborhood better.
You could always count on Erika and Jerry and granddaughter Heather to be on hand when it was time to put up the Community Christmas Tree, untangling miles of lights and helping out in any way they could.
We watched Heather grow up before our eyes at the Rancho Cordova Fourth of July, first helping her grandparents, then running volunteer activities on her own.
Over the years, the Johnson Family has made their mark, volunteering at Kid's Day in the Park during the White Rock Park years, enthusiastically supporting iFest and always in the front row at the Rancho Cordova Luncheon.
What do they do at the Fourth of July? Erika and Jerry have the sometimes thankless task of running our East Gate, sweltering in the heat while selling tickets and welcoming folks to the festival. Heather is there to help, backing up her grandparents and making her own mark, too.
Last year, the middle generation kicked in when son Johnny Johnson came to pitch in. During early morning hours of July 2 it was Johnny Johnson who helped assemble the 14-foot high giant birthday cake that would explode with fireworks to celebrate the city's 10th Anniversary. He was there again at the California Capital Airshow doing heavy lifting with the logistics team, and asking when he could do more.
There is a tradition at the Rancho Cordova Fourth of July of families working together to bring our biggest community celebration to life. It started with the Jim and Jeri McDonald and family, and continued with Wayne and Nicky Harmer and family.
We can only say that it's a wonderful thing to see a family who cares about their community so much they make the community their family business.
So here they are, ready to take a bow: Erika, Jerry, Johnny and Heather, three generations of Fourth of July volunteers, with a shout out to other Johnson's everywhere who could not be here tonight.
Thank you folks - you are our All American Fourth of July volunteers!