Getting into the spirit of the holiday season

Neither cold nor wind deterred Glendale resident Pamela Rowles and her family from securing front-row seats at the Montrose Christmas Parade, where they staked out their position on Honolulu Avenue three hours early Saturday.

"We love this area, we love the people, we love the community," Rowles said. "We come out and see Santa every year."

She was surrounded by thousands of like-minded people who descended on the shopping park to kick off the Christmas season in traditional Montrose fashion.

The 35th annual parade featured 147 entries, including 25 horses, 11 marching bands, 700 Scouts and eight wolves, brought in by the animal rescue foundation Shadowland. Jack and Helen Nethercutt, whose family founded the Merle Norman cosmetics company and who chairs the Sylmar-based Nethercutt Collection, among other philanthropic efforts, served as grand marshals.

The event was televised live on the International Christian Family Network, and streamed live on its namesake website, www.
com, a digital twist to an event known for its quaint, local feel.

Attendance has grown steadily in recent years, organizers said.

"I have been parade coordinator for five years, and when I first started, the average crowd was 15,000 to 16,000," La Crescenta resident Steve Pierce said. "Last year we had 24,000, according to Glendale police."

Glendale Police Lt. Steve Robertson said Saturday night that this year's preliminary attendance figure is 21,000.

The volunteer corps — formally known as the Montrose Christmas Parade Assn. — that stages the event has also swelled and now includes more than 100 people, Pierce said.

"I think it is that the parade just has this excitement and joy, and it is such a local tradition that people have grown to get even more involved each year," Pierce said.

It is not unusual for families to set out folding chairs as early as 10 a.m. on parade day to secure a prime spot on the parade route, organizers said.

"It used to be that you would see no one on the street until you got closer to Ocean View Boulevard," Pierce said. "Now, people start setting up chairs all the way down to Rosemont Avenue."

The recently opened Trader Joe's grocery store at the west end of the Montrose Shopping Park — built on a site that was once an empty parking lot — also added to the ambience of the parade route, he said.

"It just adds a little bit more life down that way," Pierce said. "It is changing the dynamic of Montrose."

As community organizations, flag girls and Scout troops passed down the middle of the street, many attendees said the familiar faces are what make the parade special year after year.

"I love that it is a small, hometown parade," said Annie Wright, who was on hand to watch her son perform with the Crescenta Valley High School marching band. "It is all your local people and your local schools … about every five minutes there is somebody you know."

Robertson, of the Glendale Police department, said one parade-goer was arrested on suspicion of public intoxication.