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Op-Ed: Ojai resident Brad Sloan explains what July 4th in Ojai means to him

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Photo by Bradley M. Sloan
The Seats on Ojai Avenue represent Ojai’s spirit.

 

By Bradley M. Sloan
California doesn’t stop. It has this aura of being incredibly fast paced, where people are always, “Go, Go, Go.” But then there’s us. Ojai. No, not Ohio. It’s 10 minutes inland of Ventura. Or an hour north of LA. And when you get here, it’s quiet, small and rural. There’s almost nothing like it anywhere else in California. And that’s why we are so proud to say this is where we are from. 
Growing up here, most say there isn’t much to do. It’s a rather slow community. But on the Fourth of July, we break that status quo and come together as one. It is one of the few times a year where everyone is able to wake up early and walk outside to the 90-degree heat, throw on the red, white and blue T-shirt, and make their way downtown Ojai to watch the parade where all of the youth athletes walk down with big smiles on their faces as they begin to take part in their first Ojai community experience, where bands perform on floats, and kids run around their parents and friends spraying each other with squirt bottles, as our entire community floods downtown Ojai. These are the moments that separate Ojai from the rest of Southern California. Where else do you see people leaving out their chairs willingly weeks in advance and people don’t even hesitate to steal them? 
Where did you watch the fireworks from? At the Nordhoff Ranger football field? Maybe you parked your truck in the dirt lot across from the field? Maybe you just watched them from your house because Ojai is so small you can pretty much see them from anywhere! 
This year, we don’t have any of that. We don’t have the parade. We don’t have the kids getting to represent their sports teams. We don’t have the veterans who fought for our freedom waving at us as they honk their old car horns. We don’t get to smell the tractors as they roll past us. We don’t get to lie on the grass or in our truck beds with our family and friends we love while we watch the fireworks explode in the sky.  
With all of that being said, even though the sidewalks are empty, there were two lonely chairs downtown to symbolize all that we have created as a community. These two chairs had a sign on them that read: “ The Seats.” 
The Seats remind us that this is only temporary. They remind us that we are still a community, and that we will fight through this pandemic together. Whether we realize it or not, our community is one big family, and our tradition is not dead. We will be back next year, and we will celebrate, and sing, and eat, because we are The Ojai Valley. And we will stand together forever. 
Happy Independence Day. 

— Bradley M. Sloan took the photograph of “The Seats” on the front page of today’s Ojai Valley News. He was born and raised in Ojai, attending Mira Monte Elementary, Matilija Junior High School, and then graduated Nordhoff High School in 2013.  At Nordhoff, he played football and baseball, and was part of Nordhoff football's first-ever CIF championship season. He then attended Boise State University where he studied media productions and now hopes to start his own videography career.

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