A gleamingly new icy Snow Queen anchored the 37th annual Festival of Lights Parade Sunday, the most austerely royal of 60 entries parading through downtown Los Altos like visions from a childhood dream.
Penguins toasted marshmallows, a wolf chased a shrieking Red Riding Hood and dogs pulled a light-bedecked sleigh. The modern day dissolved into an imagined past as Police Chief Tuck Younis cruised through on a bicycle, followed minutes later by a restored Ford Customline Police Car that could have driven straight out of 1953.
Groups of all sizes packed the sidewalks and curbs of downtown Los Altos, gathering hours in advance to set up folding tables covered with snacks and relax with children and pets. Warm weather may have proved particularly inviting for local families, according to Nancy Schneider, one of the volunteers who organizes the event each year through the Festival of Lights Parade Association.
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Kym Le’s 10-month-old son Carter waited in the gathering twilight while his sister Kaleia wielded a flashlight – a parade veteran this year at 3 years old.
“Everything from the marching bands to all the different floats to real people waving at her to Santa at the end – I don’t think Kaleia has a favorite,” Le said. “Everything was fantastic.”
Volunteers renovate the character’s costumes on a rolling basis – this year’s glittering silver Snow Queen gown, studded with beads, sequins, jewels and a raised fur-lined collar, took Catharine Kristian more than 100 hours of sewing.
“She’s made a lot of our costumes, and this was just really spectacular,” Schneider said of the debut. The previous dress had garbed Los Altos’ queen for 25 years. One former occupant of the throne watched from a new perspective this year.
Megan Mead Germack and her daughter Greta, 19 months, cozied up on a State Street sidewalk surrounded by more than a dozen friends and family. Germack grew up playing characters in the parade as her mother sewed costumes – culminating in a turn as the Snow Queen.
“I love watching the kids watch it – (Greta) was here last year, but I think this is the first year that she’ll really get it,” Germack said.
Charlotte Arrouye, one of the ballgown-clad princesses who hailed from the Assisteens, shared royal lore known only by the volunteer teens of the Costume Bank.
“Definitely glitter’s a big thing, and lights, and walking in heels the whole way – knowing to hold up the dresses,” she said. The role included some method acting, as she laughingly anticipated hobbling home by the end of the night.
“Just like Cinderella, trying to make it home with the blisters,” Charlotte said. “But it’s worth it.”
37th annual Los Altos Festival of Lights Parade - Photos by Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier