When the 31st annual Montrose Christmas Parade hits Honolulu Avenue on Saturday night, the procession’s leader might not talk much to the thousands of onlookers expected to turn out for the holiday tradition — he’ll more likely quack.
The official grand marshal is slated to be none other than Donald Duck, a Walt Disney creation whose voice was brought to life by former Montrose resident and Honolulu Avenue merchant Clarence Nash.
Nash, who died in 1985, was a Montrose fixture who once owned Anderson’s Pet Shop and never hesitated to impersonate his character while walking the small town’s streets, often with an entourage of children close behind, said City Councilman John Drayman, who grew up in Montrose.
“Donald has a special connection to Montrose,” Drayman said. “So this is a chance to help welcome Donald Duck home for Christmas, and the folks at Disney have been extremely cooperative with us in making Donald’s schedule work for us and the parade.”
While Donald Duck will add a fresh face to the parade, the annual tradition will also include fixtures that show up year after year, most notably Santa Claus, parade coordinator Dana Banks said.
The North Pole gift-giver, clad in his usual scarlet and white suit, will swoop down above the Montrose Shopping Park toward the beginning of the parade, which is set for 6 p.m., riding shotgun in a Glendale Police Department helicopter.
Soon after, some 4,000 participants — from elected officials and dignitaries to local Boy Scout troops and nonprofit organizations — will make their way down Honolulu Avenue from Rosemont Avenue to Verdugo Road, she said.
The participants are members of about 115 group entries, which include marching bands from local middle and high schools; the Oscar Meyer Weinermobile; and Machina Candeo, a performance group that mixes dance, music and fire, Banks said.
The Montrose Christmas Parade Assn., a nonprofit committee formed to produce the show, has been busy organizing this year’s event since Aug. 1, though certain administrative work started even earlier, Banks said.
The committee relies on sponsors like the city of Glendale, the Montrose Shopping Park Assn. and the Montrose Verdugo City Chamber of Commerce to produce the event, which costs about $20,000, Drayman said.
While nonprofit entities can enter the parade for free, commercial participants pay a $500 entry fee to help cover the cost of show, Banks said.
Keeping a three-decades-old tradition alive is well worth the extensive hours required to coordinate the show, Banks said.
“I can’t tell you how many moms I talk to who were in the parade as kids and now have their own kids who are in the parade,” she said.
The event also proves to be a solid shopping day for the businesses that line the Montrose Shopping Park, said Dale Dawson, owner of Mountain Rose Gifts and president of the Montrose Shopping Park Assn.
“We get in a good day and then close our doors at about 5 [p.m.], and the parade starts at 6,” Dawson said.
“But the people, they start putting blankets and chairs out on the grass plots as early as 10 [a.m.]. They’re staking out their territory all day long.”