The heat wave couldn’t stop families from flooding Hart Park Sunday to enjoy Father’s Day in a hundred different celebrations large and small.

Dads fished, barbecued, swam in the lake, jumped from trees into coves in the Kern River and walked dogs. Some even stole an occasional nap.

For David Perez, sitting in a Hawaiian shirt with a blue lei around his neck, Hart Park was the perfect place to spend Father’s Day.

Perez is the pastor of the Apostolic Church on Morning Drive and by late morning his congregation had turned rows of tables under the huge shade canopy of a copse of trees across from the Hart Park lake into a party store-style Hawaiian luau.

Mothers were filling a massive bowl with cut pineapples and watermelon, party decorations lined the tables and hung from trees, barbecues were grilling and two huge vats of festively-colored beverage stood ready at hand.

Kids played among the tables amid the buzz in both English and Spanish.

The air of family was everywhere.

Faith and fathers, Perez said, keep families together.

Meeting for Father’s Day is a tradition for his congregation he said, and it continued Sunday despite the heat, already in the high 90s and rising before 11 a.m.

“For us (Father’s Day) is a door to appreciating God as a parent,” he said.

His own children, Enid and David, Jr., were due to arrive a little later.

Nearby Anabel Alvarado, who leads the church’s youth services with her husband, talked while her daughter Anali, 2, tottered over to a nearby swingset to plop her stuffed bear into the seat and give it a push.

Girls tend to worship their fathers, she said.

“I never grew out of that phase,” she said. “I have the best father in the world. My father is still everything to me.”

She remembers the small moments best.

There was the day she, at six-years-old, was singing a song as she pulled her shoes and socks off in the living room – sending them flying.

Her father was in the kitchen with his coffee, just steps away.

“My dad is an avid coffee-drinker,” Alvarado said. “I take off my sock and it lands right in his coffee cup.”

Her father immediately began a lecture into the flaws of sock-flinging, she said.

But couldn’t stop a surge of mirth.

He collapsed into gales of laughter and took the whole family with him.

Now, as a mother, she understands how the love of a parent shapes a person.

“There’s no book that tells you what to do – how to be a mom, how to be a dad,” she said.

Her parents are the guide she uses to find her own way as a mother.

Alvarado celebrated Father’s Day with her dad on Saturday.

On Sunday she was with her church family and with her husband Julio.

The couple are only two weeks from welcoming their second child, a son, and Alvarado said she was drawn to Julio’s patience, hard work, compassion and his humble nature – things that reflected her love of her dad.

Like her, he is grounded in family.

“I saw how he treated his mom, how he always called her. Family is everything to him,” she said.

The value of family, said pastor Perez, is what he hopes the Father’s Day gathering teaches his congregation — especially the children.

“The new generation is losing these values. They’re not seeing their parents with respect,” Perez said. “My intention is to teach the kids how beautiful it is to be one family together.”

Alvarado said the church is her second family.

“Family doesn’t have to be about blood. It’s about who’s there – who’s there in the hard times,” she said. “So here we are. It’s going to be 108 (degrees) but we’re here.”

Celebrating dads is worth it.

“We make a big deal about Mother’s Day – and we deserve it,” she said. “But the guys do too.”

James Burger can be reached at 661‑395-7415. Follow him on Twitter: @KernQuirks.

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