Festival of Lights Parade Gets A Facelift

Organizers of the beloved parade ask that lawn chairs be placed on the sidewalks only after noon and to eschew the use of chalk and tape to mark spectators' places.


By Bryan Delohery

The award-winning Los Altos Festival of Lights Parade is back for its 35th consecutive year, stronger and brighter than ever—for good reason. 

With as many as 16,000 people expected to flood downtown Los Altos around 6 p.m. Sunday, the handiwork of Los Altos Boy Scouts Troop 37 will be on display, as the parade kicks off at the intersection of First and State streets.

Troop members went beyond their annual maintenance volunteer work this year, said parade board member Nancy Schneider, helping redo the aging push floats as part of their Eagle Scout service.

“They stripped them down to their bare essentials and put new paper on them, fixed where the generators go and put new lights on them.”

Some of the floats needed refreshing because they are 25 to 30 years old, Schneider said. Troop 37 and San Jose Opera stepped right in to help.

"It has been working out wonderfully, and we have completed the "Mouse with Candle" float, "Snowman," and "Jack in the Box," Schneider said in an email to Patch. 

The annual theme, “A Childs Holiday Fantasy,” features approximately 25 floats, local high school marching bands and costumed characters including Peter Pan and the Wizard of Oz.

The first float is always the "Snow Queen,”  and the last float is Santa and his reindeer, "a big, exciting thing for the children to see,” Schneider added, in an interview.

Other floats include a musical pine grove, a decorated train and a Ferris wheel.

They’ve been updating costumes, as well, and have a spectacular float  “Winterland”  in the works that will appear in the 2013 parade.  

Schneider said that it costs the non-profit organization about $20,000 a year to put on the parade, and it relies on donations from people and local companies.  

Because the parade is so successful, however, it requires supervision, in one particular way, noted Schneider.

The Los Altos custom of setting out lawn chairs along the parade route at noon—hours before the event—is experiencing time creep, as parade-goers start putting them out earlier and earlier.  

Setting up chairs or blankets to reserve spots is not allowed before noon on Sunday, Schneider said, and using chalk, tape or rope is absolutely prohibited. 

"We are still having significant problems with people setting up before noon the day of parade," she said, adding that items placed on the sidewalks before noon could be removed. The Los Altos Police Department, along with community service officers, will be on hand to remind parade goers of the rules and regulations.

“A majority of the calls we get are from businesses and people who know the rules” said Los Altos Police Sgt. Mark Bautista, addressing the time creep issue. “People don’t want to get out there that early and feel they shouldn’t have to” in order to reserve a space.

Aside from chairs and blankets blocking store fronts, another serious problem is
the use of chalk and tape which often does not get removed, Schneider said. This becomes an eyesore which must be cleaned up by store owners or city workers, she said.

For a full list of parade viewing guidelines and parade route, please visit www.losaltosparade.com

Editor's Note: Bryan Delohery is a San Jose State University journalism student. He wrote this piece for Patch as part of a class assignment.


Does your family have a tradition of watching the night-time parade? Tell us how long you've been doing this.    

Jennifer Lopez November 25, 2012 at 08:50 PM
I showed up at 12:02 and was lucky to find one last spot at the end of the route on First Street. Everywhere I looked there was tape, lots and lots of chalked sidewalk, and soggy blankets (since the rain stopped early this morning I think that is very telling!). What I didn't see was a single police officer or community service officer removing items that were set out early or telling people they couldn't use chalk and/or tape. I am more discouraged every year. And I was so hopeful this year, after reading this article, that the problem was finally being addressed. Sigh.
Jim Fenton November 25, 2012 at 09:26 PM
A friend suggested that perhaps, in keeping with the spirit of the holidays, that blankets and chairs set out early should be donated to charity.
L.A. Chung November 26, 2012 at 05:46 AM
I wonder if police came out much later, and then there wasn't really anything to do. This is hard on people who attempt to follow the rules. Chair and blanket donations might be a worthwhile idea!
Linda Brinsfield November 26, 2012 at 06:34 AM
I drove through town at 8:30 am and saw people setting up chairs and blankets. By 11:00, almost every square inch of the sidewalks on Main and State were covered with tape, chalk, blankets, chairs, tarps, etc. I even saw a man marking (with chalk) his parade viewing territory in the crosswalk at Third and State. I think it would be helpful to have large signs with the parade rules (no chalk, tape, setting up before noon, etc.) posted. The only signs I saw on the parade route were tow away signs.
Carol Commendatore November 28, 2012 at 09:44 AM
I've been attending the parade for 35 years. It was terrific this year!! Thanks parade committee, boy scouts, and merchants. Carol Commendatore


More »
Got a question? Something on your mind? Talk to your community, directly.
Note Article
Just a short thought to get the word out quickly about anything in your neighborhood.
Share something with your neighbors.What's on your mind?What's on your mind?Make an announcement, speak your mind, or sell somethingPost something
See more »