Parade Reaches for the Stars

Photos by Leonard COUTIN
Photos by Leonard COUTIN

Organizers of the 36th annual Montrose Glendale Christmas Parade will have a “star-studded” affair celebrating the Curiosity Rover and JPL Mars Science Laboratory team.
By Michael J. ARVIZU

Geeks rejoice! This year’s Montrose Glendale Christmas Parade will boldly go where no parade has gone before as personalities from the worlds of science fiction and real life science combine for one evening.

Themed “Reaching for the Stars,” the 36th annual parade will make its way through the Montrose Shopping Park beginning at 6 p.m. Dec. 1, starting at Rosemont Avenue and ending at Verdugo Road. As usual, Santa Claus himself will open the parade, spreading glad tidings as he rides high above the crowd in a Glendale Police Department helicopter.

On the ground, announcers Jane Kane and Rick Dinger will offer commentary as participants wind their way down Honolulu Avenue. These include a group of scientists from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory Mars Science Laboratory mission team that will march down the avenue as the official grand marshals of the Montrose Glendale Christmas Parade. With the help of the Curiosity rover, scientists have been studying the Martian surface in closer detail, gaining insights into its habitability and whether life may have once existed there. The science team will march behind an inflatable model of Curiosity.

“I’m excited. This is a great opportunity to celebrate one more time and share the triumph of landing and experiencing it with the family,” said Jordan Evans, engineering development and operation manager of the Mars Science Lab, of marching in the parade. “The rover represents setting the bar real high and that you are willing to take risks. Every part of it has been better than we could have hoped.”

Behind the team of scientists, robotics teams from Crescenta Valley and Clark Magnet high schools will pilot their robotic creations down the parade route. JPL has lent its expertise and collaborated with the high schools on their robotics programs. The scientists hope their presence and that of their colleagues at the parade will help inspire the next generation of scientists.

“In the future, some day, they can be at the controls,” said Al Chen, rover entry, descent and operation lead who, along with Evans, will be walking behind the rover model during the parade.

Following closely behind the science laboratory team and robotics students will be a star from the original 1960s “Star Trek” television show: actor Walter Koenig. Fans will remember him as Ensign Pavel Chekov, crewmember on board the U.S.S. Enterprise. He will serve as co-grand marshal.

This is the first year the Montrose Glendale Christmas Parade has had a theme, said parade coordinator Cheryl Davis. Giving the parade a theme has been attempted before, but parade organizers were inspired this year
following the Curiosity rover’s Mars landing on Aug. 5 and space shuttle Endeavour’s arrival in Los Angeles on Sept. 21 for its final trip to the California Science Center.

Koenig, a major proponent of furthering the sciences, remarked on the importance of studying the stars.

“I was in England and I received an invitation to come to Brussels, to the European Parliament to talk to about 400 on the subject of inspiring this generation to become involved in the space program,” Koenig said. “I was on the panel with several astronauts and a couple of scientists. I took the position that it’s really destiny.

“Our evolution, I think, goes beyond us as a species. Our evolution and our intellect and our knowledge are the ever-developing characteristics of human beings. My feeling was that when we die, what we leave behind is our work and our knowledge. That knowledge is the building blocks for others who come after us. And it is human destiny to learn and explore and to succeed in all manner of living to our potential. I believe in the idea of actualization, that our purpose here on earth, each of us, is to live as close to our potential as we can. I think the ultimate reason is that it’s all part of evolution and the determination that we keep moving up into the stars and also of course down into the oceans.”

Asssemblyman Anthony Portantino (D-La Cañada) will also be found traveling down Honolulu Avenue.

“My family and I are very excited to be in the parade,” said Assemblyman Portantino. “I’m always amazed at how many friends and neighbors I see on Honolulu [Avenue] and how wonderfully the community comes together to support it.”

About 120 entries will be in the parade, including local dignitaries, and members of the Glendale City Council and Crescenta Valley Town Council, among others.

“It’s always a joy to be in the parade. I watched it when I was in high school, so it’s nice to be a part of it,” said Crescenta Valley High School band director and parade band marshal Mathew Schick. “We’d like to think of ourselves as the ambassadors to the community. Every year it gets better and better, and the kids enjoy it.”

Schick’s CVHS band will be performing in the parade, along with bands from Burroughs and La Cañada high schools. As this year’s band marshal, Schick is responsible for suggesting the order of appearance for each band in the parade to the event’s organizers.

“I’m looking forward to seeing it all come together,” said Davis. “I’ve been in it a couple of times; I’ve never worked it before, so to actually be on the other side of it, it’s really kind of cool.”

For more information on this year’s parade, visit