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Festival in Lights illuminates Memorial Park, children’s faces with a visit from Santa

Residents eager to start their holiday season found a welcome destination in La Cañada’s Memorial Park Friday evening, where carols, candy canes, snow pits and a visit from Kris Kringle himself highlighted the 23rd annual Festival in Lights celebration.

Among them was La Cañada mom Eryn Seltzer, who’s come to Memorial Park the first Friday in December since she moved to town four years ago with husband Andrew, 6-year-old daughter Quinn and son Liam, 3.

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“I love everything — the family atmosphere, the snow, the reindeer. The entire night I’ve been talking to moms and friends and catching up,” Seltzer said, adding the kids seem to enjoy it, too. “Just playing in the snow makes their day.”

Sponsored by the La Cañada Flintridge Chamber of Commerce and Community Assn., the event has become a cherished tradition for families like the Seltzers and for city staff and local officials as well. Among Friday’s revelers were Mayor Mike Davitt, Mayor Pro Tem Terry Walker and Councilmen Len Pieroni and Greg Brown.

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“This is what makes La Cañada,” said Walker, guessing she’s attended every festival since the event began. “You see the little kids eyes light up when Santa comes, and they’re so excited.”

The evening began with carols sung by Palm Crest, Paradise Canyon and La Cañada elementary school choral students, and then it was time for the naming of the 2018 Miss La Cañada Flintridge Royal Court.

Selected from among 10 finalists, the winners were Rucha Kadam, Megan Andrews and Hazel Valentine from La Cañada High School, Flintridge Preparatory School’s Courtney Johnson and Julia Powers of Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy.

One court member will be crowned Miss La Cañada Flintridge at a special coronation ceremony during the chamber’s 106th Installation, Awards and Coronation Gala on Jan. 25.

Valentine, who celebrated afterward with mom Teri, dad John and sister Katie Rayburn, said she’s had her sights set on entering the contest from the time she was a little girl.

“I looked up to all the princesses and the queen when I was younger,” she said. “I’m really in love with the city, and I’m very much a home girl, so I thought this was a perfect opportunity to show that off.”

As skies grew dark, Crescenta Valley Sheriff’s Station deputies joined local Los Angeles County Fire Department employees to escort Santa and Mrs. Claus down Foothill Boulevard to the Memorial Park gazebo, where the couple took a seat and heard requests from hundreds of festival-goers.

Quinn Seltzer asked Santa for a Penguala Hatchimal, while a star-struck Liam wished for a pair of fireman dress-up pants to complete his favorite costume.

“For a 3-year-old who loves fireman, there’s absolutely nothing like seeing Santa come in escorted by a fire truck,” mom Eryn Seltzer said. “It’s like the highlight of his life.”

Older kids contemplated their wishes for the holiday season, too.

“I’d just like La Cañada to be the safe, peaceful community it already is,” Walker said.

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