Plans are being finalized for the annual Montrose Glendale Christmas Parade, a holiday tradition in the foothills.
By Mary O’KEEFE
The 38th Annual Montrose Glendale Christmas Parade is quickly approaching and the grand marshal has been announced: it is Johnny Harrison.
Anyone who has, or had, a child in the Glendale Unified School District will be familiar with Harrison. To say he is a champion for youth is a bit of an understatement; he has supported a wide range of student projects within the district, from robots to art and beyond.
“[Children] are our future – no ifs, ands or buts,” Harrison said of the drive behind his support of students.
He has seen various school programs, like art, band and robotics, being eaten away by budget cuts. He said he feels fortunate that he is able to help support some of the programs that, without his support, could fall by the wayside or, at the very least, be radically reduced.
Harrison added that he believes when children find a subject they are passionate about they need to explore that passion.
“If you put people in what they are passionate about they will be better at it and be better people,” he said.
He worries about what students will turn to if the programs that inspire them are cut.
“We have to get [students] energized; if we don’t they might go down the wrong path,” he said.
Harrison said he was honored to be selected as grand marshal but is also humbled by the choice sharing credit with others who support youth and praising the GUSD staff, administrators and teachers.
Harrison is the vice president and general manager of Lexus of Glendale. He has been in the automobile industry since he was 16 years old. Although it won’t be a Lexus, Harrison will appreciate an additional aspect of this year’s parade. To recognize the 50th anniversary of the Ford Mustang, the Montrose Glendale Parade committee has arranged for all VIPs to be driven in convertible Mustangs spanning those 50 years.
“The one carrying [Mr. Harrison] is incredible,” said Cheryl Davis, coordinator of the parade.
This is Davis’ third year as coordinator. She said that choosing a grand marshal is not something that is taken lightly.
“Our grand marshals represent gems from the local Glendale-Montrose area. Sometimes they represent significant events like the Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s Mars rover landing in 2012 and other times they represent those who shine brightly and make our community a wonderful place to live,” she said. “[Johnny] Harrison’s personal motto is, ‘We are not put on the Earth for a self purpose but a community purpose of helping each other.’ His never-ending generosity, community outreach and fundraising expertise has hugely benefitted every student, teacher and school in the GUSD. I can’t think of a more deserving grand marshal for the parade.”
This year the junior grand marshal is familiar. Prom Plus Club was chosen this year, and was also last year’s junior grand marshal.
“The Prom Plus Club is the largest volunteer force for the Christmas parade. In fact, the members were selected last year because they are a huge army of volunteers at Oktoberfest, Montrose Film Festival, the Hometown Country Fair, the Foothills Relay for Life and almost every event there is in this community,” she said.
Last year PPC was placed at the end of the parade with the reasoning that the kids could break away for a few minutes to travel down the parade route.
“The PPC members were working so hard and were spread out all over the parade route, so they were unable to get to the starting point to join in the parade and be recognized, Davis said. “A very sad and lonely Junior Grand Marshal banner came down the parade route, but the PPC was not behind it.”
PPC members, though, continued to work. Davis said she became emotional when the PPC members came up to the parade board members at the end of the parade and asked what they could do to help clean up.
“It was immediately clear that we couldn’t fix the mistake but we could make it right,” she said. “This year the junior grand marshal will be one of the first entries down the parade route and I hope to hear some extra loud cheering as they pass by.”
The Montrose Glendale Christmas Parade has become a community tradition for many foothills families. The parade highlights those organizations and people that keep the community strong.
“The Parade Association, a non-profit, exists solely to organize the parade and that is only possible because of the support from the city of Glendale and our generous sponsors,” Davis said. “This is my third year and it has rained on the last two parades. What exactly does the saying ‘third time’s a charm’ mean? We’ll see on Dec. 6 because the parade goes on rain or shine. Some shine would be a nice change.”
It takes many, many volunteers to make the parade the event the community loves.
“We welcome volunteers from everywhere, so if you’re not in or watching [the parade], please contact us to help work it because it’s not possible without our wonderful volunteers … some who have been volunteering for over a decade.”
Those interested can email firstname.lastname@example.org or call Melinda Clarke at (818) 249-7171 or Davis at (818) 970-0976.
The parade takes place on Dec. 6 beginning at 6:10 p.m. The parade extends from the 2500 block of Honolulu Avenue to the 2100 block ending at Verdugo Road. The parade this year will be filmed by students from Clark Magnet High School, and next week CVW will interview those who make the “production” of the parade look simple.