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Festival rings in the season

Santa, reindeer, snow, song and the new Miss La Cañada Flintridge Court bring holiday cheer to Memorial Park

December 03, 2010|By Joe Piasecki, joe.piasecki@latimes.com
(Cheryl Guerrero/Staff…)

It's official: The holiday season is now underway in La Cañada Flintridge.

Families gathered by the dozen Thursday evening in Memorial Park for the 16th annual Festival in Lights celebration, taking delight in live holiday music, two kids' snow-play areas, a pair of reindeer and an appearance by the season's top celebrity couple — Santa and Mrs. Claus, who arrived in a 1915 Ford Model-T behind a noisy fire and Sheriff's Department escort to hear kids' Christmas wishes and switch on holiday lights at the park and along Foothill Boulevard.

"It's about family, friends, the whole spirit of this community. It's so neat," said longtime La Cañada Flintridge resident Shirley Myers, who's attended all 16 festivals.

Myers' son, Rich Myers, performed holiday standards with the local band Misplaced Priorities, which took the stage following choirs from Palm Crest and Paradise Canyon elementary schools and the Chamber Singers of La Cañada High School.

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Before Santa's arrival, Linda Eaton of the La Cañada Junior Women's Club announced the five members of this 2011 Miss La Cañada Flintridge Court from among the contest's 14 finalists — the lucky local 11th graders being Taani Ahluwalia, Stephanie Bathke, Morgan Devaud, Robin Miketta and Gemma Sokol.

"All the girls are very poised and accomplished both scholastically and in extracurricular activities. It was a very tough field to narrow down," said Eaton, who added that any group pulled from the finalists would have made an exceptional court.

Members of the crowd cheered for all of the contest's participants, but perhaps the loudest was Sokol's mother Ronna Mandel.

"Volunteering is Gemma's middle name. I'm so proud of her and of all the girls who put themselves out there. It's not easy to do," Mandel said.

What was easy, it seemed, was for families to enjoy plenty of quality time together — that is, when the kids weren't busy frolicking in seven tons of snow spread out in two play patches.

"It's a fun event that really brings out the Christmas spirit. This is what we look for to ring in Christmas every year," said Jarmen Shirvanian, who brought along husband Boris, daughter Nayiri, 10, and son Nareg, 3.

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