Growing up in Upland, California is kind of like growing up in a bubble. From kindergarten onward, you basically progress through your childhood alongside the same people. I feel like I am a prime example of this because three of my best friends from home were also some of the first people I met in kindergarten. Despite going through a few fake friend detours in high school, I have ultimately come out the other end with the realization that these three girls from kindergarten are the ones that have stuck by me for 17 years and will always be there for me.
Some may think that growing up in a “bubble” would be constricting or boring; yes, sometimes Upland could be very boring, and going off to college was all my friends and I dreamed of. However, once I left I realized I really missed some of those unique small-town things that only people who grew up in Upland would know about: The Lemon Festival, the Christmas Parade around the downtown gazebo and the small local airport’s annual air show.
Upland, and several of its surrounding cities, used to be filled with citrus groves once upon a time — at least, that’s what they taught us in elementary school when we got to our local history units. I honestly love that Upland’s citrus origins are still celebrated every year with the local Lemon Festival; yes, the rides may be rickety, and the vendor booths are always the same but, for me, there’s a comfort in it.
Before the sprawling citrus groves, however, children who grow up in Upland are taught about the pioneers who first hiked Euclid Avenue — a street that is now emblematic of Upland. You really can’t go too far in the city without crossing Euclid in one way or another. One of my favorite elementary school stories about these so-called pioneers was about how they got their donkeys back down the massive hill that is now Euclid after a long day. The donkeys would pull these pioneers’ carts of materials and goods up the hill all day, so they were quite tired once the sun started setting. The pioneers’ solution? Put the donkey in its cart and let it roll all the way down the hill. Even now, envisioning these donkeys sitting in their respective carts and rolling down Euclid gives me a chuckle.
I also love the fact that Upland has an adorable downtown area that is quite literally used twice a year. However, those two weekends out of the year — Lemon Festival weekend and the Christmas Parade —- bring almost every Upland resident out of their homes to create some of my favorite town gatherings and memories.
I was very fortunate to grow up in a hometown like Upland that is, in California terms, quite close to anywhere you’d want to go. Whenever anyone asks me to describe my hometown, my immediate response is, ‘Oh, it’s an hour outside of Los Angeles, an hour from the beach and an hour from the mountains.’ Now, like I said, this is in California terms — so all of those commute times are likely to fluctuate with the five-lane freeways of traffic that characterize the state on a daily basis. All in all, spending my childhood in Upland was pretty great. Even if not for anything else about the city, I wouldn’t change a thing because if I hadn’t grown up there I wouldn’t have met my best friends.
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