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25th annual Festival in Lights a sparkling end to a rainy day

Festival in Lights
Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus arrive for the La Cañada Flintridge Chamber of Commerce 25th annual Festival in Lights at Memorial Park on Dec. 6.
(James Carbone)

Afternoon rain failed to dampen spirits at La Cañada’s Memorial Park on Friday, when kids from 1 to 92 kicked off the holiday season at the Festival in Lights and enjoyed all the charms small-city living has to offer.

Hosted by the La Cañada Flintridge Chamber of Commerce and co-sponsored by the city of La Cañada Flintridge, the winter fair honored its annual promise of snowball fights, cups of cocoa, pictures with Santa and a full night of merry-making.

“I think it’s a good turnout,” said La Cañada Mayor Len Pieroni of the hundreds who attended despite the residual dampness. “This is the kickoff to the holidays — it’s part of what makes La Cañada so special.”

Festival in Lights
Len Pieroni, the mayor of La Cañada Flintridge, dressed in bright holiday attire for the La Cañada Flintridge Chamber of Commerce 25th annual Festival in Lights Friday at Memorial Park.
(James Carbone)
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Choral singers from Paradise Canyon Elementary and the La Cañada Elementary Lion’s Pride chorus sang holiday carols, while 14 finalists vying for five spots on the Miss La Cañada Flintridge 2020 Royal Court assembled near adviser Kathryn Markgraff.

Then it was time for the big announcement.

“When you try something new — and put yourself in a situation that might make you a little nervous and uncomfortable but know that it will help you grow — you should be celebrated,” Markgraff told the crowd. “Here is a group of young ladies who tried something new and were well-spoken and brave.”

Finalists include La Cañada High School juniors Audrey Melillo, Ally Rayer, Ellaney Matarese and Reese Ramseyer as well as Grace Fontes of Mayfield Senior School. Miss LCF will be crowned in a ceremony at the chamber’s 108th Installation, Awards and Coronation Gala on Jan. 30.

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Festival in Lights
The 2020 Miss La Cañada Flintridge Royal Court, from left, Audrey Melillo, from LCHS; Grace Fontes, from Mayfield Senior School; Ally Rayer, from LCHS, Ellaney Matarese; from LCHS; and Reese Ramseyer, from LCHS, pose for a picture Friday during the La Cañada Flintridge Chamber of Commerce’s 25th annual Festival in Lights.
(James Carbone)

Mom Ronda Ramseyer was thrilled to hear her daughter’s name called. She explained how she and husband John Allen had come to the festival with Reese and her younger sister Lauren for years.

“When they were little, we’d come for the snow. Then, in elementary school they sang in the chorus. Every year experiencing this, she’d see the selection of the Royal Court, something every little girl looks up to,” she said. “I was just thrilled she wanted to do this.”

As darkness fell, kids clamored for the main attraction. The arrival of Santa and Mrs. Claus via a sheriff’s and fire department escort did not disappoint as Santa flipped a switch to turn lights on at Memorial Park and all down Foothill Boulevard.

Near the head of the Santa line, La Cañada’s Alice Kurs waited alongside 7-year-old son Milo and daughter Isabella, 10, holding 3-year-old daughter Romy in her arms. Festival in Lights has been a tradition since Romy was a baby.

“It so special to be part of a small town where you go to a local park and meet Santa — you feel like part of a community” she said, joking that she sends pictures of the snow pit to her relatives on the East Coast.

Festival in Lights
Kids play in the snow during the La Cañada Flintridge Chamber of Commerce’s 25th annual Festival in Lights at Memorial Park.
(James Carbone)

While they waited, the children contemplated what they’d ask for when their time came. Isabella decided on art supplies while friend Claire Taylor of Glendale picked a new iPhone protector.

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Milo wanted a magnetic building set and confirmed Romy wanted an Elsa doll from the movie “Frozen.” Did they know that both Disney movies were written and directed by La Cañada residents?

“If that’s not magic,” Alice Kurs said, smiling, “I don’t know what is.”

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