Shopping, Santa and a Christmas Parade

Photo by Mary O’KEEFE A horse drawn carriage on Honolulu Avenue is just one of the perks of shopping locally. Seated at left, 3-year-old Araxii Balasanyan and her dad, Andre, (waving) spent the day in Montrose riding the carriage and meeting with Santa.

By Brandon HENSLEY, Jason KUROSU and Mary O’KEEFE

Once again Honolulu Avenue has come alive with twinkle lights and holiday decorated windows. As shoppers walk down the avenue they will be greeted by Santa, with a “Ho, ho, ho” and a candy cane.  A horse drawn cart clip clops down the street while the sweet jazz sound of “The Martini Kings” fill the air.

Every year Montrose Shopping Park Association brings back civility and fun to the holidays.

“On Saturday and Sunday we have Don Tucker with his horse drawn wagon taking [patrons] down Honolulu Avenue and Heavenly Hand lead ponies are here for the kids too,” said Dale Dawson, executive director of MSPA.

The hours for the horse rides, Santa and live music are from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. every Saturday and Sunday through Dec. 25. All of this for free as a holiday gift from the association.

For about six years “The Martini Kings” have been playing their holiday jazz along Honolulu Avenue.

“John Drayman actually found us years ago and asked if we would perform here,” said Tony Marisco of the trio. “Until then we had never thought about doing street [performances].”

Marisco is joined by Frank Marisco and Stuart Johnson as the trio plays for shoppers.

While Montrose restaurants stay open until late, the merchants usually close up shop early but in an effort to accommodate customers several of the stores will be staying open late this Friday.

“The stores will be [keeping their doors] open until 8 p.m. and will be offering special deals from 5 p.m. to closing,” Dawson said.

The deals will range from not charging sales tax to giving 10 percent off the total purchase or some will offer a gift with purchase.

“If this is successful and people come out to shop we will continue it,” Dawson added.

And if shopping wasn’t enough of a draw to Montrose, then this Saturday’s 34th Annual Montrose Christmas Parade should do the trick.

The parade is this Saturday, Dec. 4 and it promises to be another festive night of packed sidewalks and bright lights along Honolulu Avenue.

Nearly 150 participants, individuals and groups will be featured in the extravaganza including police and fire officials, members of local government from the CV Chamber of Commerce, CV Town Council and City of Glendale including Mayor Ara Najarian.

Twelve marching bands from local schools will be performing, with the Crescenta Valley High Marching Band leading the pack, celebrating their 50th anniversary. For the equestrian lovers, 51 horses will be employed and an expected 600 girl and boy scouts will be taking to the avenue. Highlights include guests of honor Stan Chambers, famed Channel 5 newscaster, and former Crescenta Valley High student and current Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim pitcher Trevor Bell. The grand marshal of the parade this year is legendary jockey Laffit Pincay, Jr.

Iconic newsman Chambers understands the hard work and commitment that goes into a production of the magnitude of the parade.

“I’ve been part of community parades that really are shared by people throughout the city,” he said, “and this is one time that [Montrose] is getting the top headline because it’s going right now and it’s an example of the holiday season and that’s what everyone is celebrating.”

The 87-year-old Chambers began at KTLA in 1947 before retiring this year. He has covered some of the most important events in the Southland and the country in his career, including the Robert Kennedy assassination and the Northridge earthquake. Chambers also covered the Tournament of Roses Parade for over 50 years.

Chambers said parades bring out the community spirit. “It’s a good thing for the local community that one time a year they have this great demonstration and say, ‘We are very proud of our city.’”

Upon hearing his invitation to the parade from coordinator Steve Pierce, Bell said he was excited.

“Oh yeah, absolutely,” he said. “I was caught off guard when they asked me to be in it. I know that it’s a really cool thing, they have to vote you in. It’s something that I had gone to growing up in La Crescenta, so it should be a lot of fun.”

Bell’s offseason schedule does not include any traveling, so he was available to attend. He’s even prepared at the chance of rain showers during the evening. “I got my Angels jacket, so I’ll be ready.”

Bell was in a joking mood – maybe – when he said he hoped his ride down Honolulu Avenue would be in the Batmobile. “Either that or the Wienerschnitzel van,” he said.

Steve Pierce, who took over as the parade’s pre-coordinator three years ago, expects the viewing crowd to be even larger than usual. Crowds in the past have been estimated to be somewhere around 15,000 people at most, but Pierce is thinking more is better.

“This year, we expect there to be around 25,000 people,” said Pierce. “The theme [of the parade] has stayed the same, but the audiences have gotten larger.”

The parade will begin at 6 p.m., but viewers are encouraged to arrive earlier in the afternoon to get good spots (lawn chairs, blankets and whatever makes one feel comfortable are all also encouraged.)

“Some people have shown up in the past as early as 10 a.m.,” Pierce said. “But I’d recommend most people to set up between 4:30 and 5:00.” With crowds even larger than usual, early arrival will be key.

The viewing public’s continued enthusiasm for the parade is matched by Pierce and his fellow volunteers. Hundreds of volunteers, from community leaders to students, are doing their part to help the parade effort.

“As we [of the Parade Association Committee] called for volunteers, the responses were, ‘Sure, what do want me to do?’” said Pierce of the many who readily stepped up to take part. “No one’s getting a dime for this.”

The Christmas spirit is evident throughout all aspects of the parade, with local residents coming together in a celebration of the holidays through their participation in organizing and viewing the parade. The 34th Annual Montrose Christmas Parade does not look to disappoint.