Santa, Snow, Royal Court Star at Festival in Lights

Photo by Mary Emily Myers / OUTLOOK The 2020 Miss La Cañada Flintridge Royal Court named at the 25th annual Festival in Lights event on Friday, Dec. 6, includes Audrey Melillo, Grace Fontes, Allison Rayer, Ellaney Matarese and Reese Ramseyer.
Photo by Mary Emily Myers / OUTLOOK
The 2020 Miss La Cañada Flintridge Royal Court named at the 25th annual Festival in Lights event on Friday, Dec. 6, includes Audrey Melillo, Grace Fontes, Allison Rayer, Ellaney Matarese and Reese Ramseyer.

Katie Wilks and her 5-year-old son Gabe recently moved to La Cañada Flintridge from Vancouver, Canada, and upon arriving at the 25th annual Festival in Lights they had a sudden, snowy flashback at Memorial Park.
The last thing Wilks expected to see was thousands of pounds of snow. In a fenced-off play area for children 5 and older were seven tons of the stuff, some of it turned to slush by recent rain.
“We’re from Canada, so we know all about snow,” Wilks said with a smile during the festival on Friday. “My daughter’s singing so we’re just here to watch her, and this is an extra little bonus.” Gabe, meanwhile, said he enjoyed the snow, but he clearly had other priorities.
“When is Santa coming?” he asked repeatedly. “I want to see Santa Claus.”
Gabe and at least 300 other people were able to see Santa and Mrs. Claus at the festival as well as hear the naming of the 2020 Miss La Cañada Flintridge Royal Court before the festival’s tree lighting ceremony.
Court members selected from among 14 finalists were Grace Fontes of Mayfield Senior School and Ellaney Matarese, Audrey Melillo, Reese Ramseyer and Allison Rayer of La Cañada High School. The other finalists also were named.
“It’s beyond my wildest dreams,” Fontes said as she stood with the other court members shortly after the announcement. “It’s something I used to look at in the [Memorial Day] parade when I was little. I would see them in the car and I just thought it was the most amazing thing.”
The other students from LCHS also shared their excitement over the honor. While Matarese said she was “over the moon” in being selected, Ramseyer described it as “unbelievable” and said she was grateful.
“There are so many amazing young ladies who did just as amazing as I did and it’s really been a pleasure,” Ramseyer said.
Rayer said she looked forward to being on the court “with all these awesome girls” in the year to come, and Melillo said she wants to give back to her community in a more “integral way” than she has done previously.
Katherine Markgraf, the Royal Court adviser, described the process of selecting the five as a difficult one.
“How do you differentiate once you’re at the cream of the crop?” Markgraf said after the young women were selected. “It’s a wonderful problem to have so many talented, educated and well-spoken young ladies.”
Markgraf said the announcement of the 2020 Miss LCF would take place on Jan. 30 at the La Cañada Flintridge Chamber of Commerce’s 108th installation, awards and coronation gala at the LCF Country Club.
“Really, their reign begins Jan. 30 but we will do some clothes shopping and some of the fun preparation stuff and also get to know each other. Just because you go to the same high school doesn’t mean you’re BFFs, right?”
In the meantime, the 2019 court and current Miss LCF Francesca Christensen will continue their tenure.
Christensen, who was at the event with her court, said before the announcement it would be “bittersweet” to hand over the crown.
“It’s fun to pass it on because it’s such an experience I want other girls to get to enjoy that,” said Christensen, who plans to major in nursing in college. “But also it definitely will be sad to leave it behind, but I think there’s lots of other things to look forward to.”
Meanwhile, festival visitors were able to watch and feed Graham crackers to two reindeer.
Gerry Clingan, a reindeer handler for California Reindeer Rentals in Tehachapi, said Frosty and Gingersnaps were about 7 years old and weighed between 300 and 400 pounds.
“They live about 20 years,” Clingan said. “I don’t think they live that long in the wild.”
Children and parents stood outside a large fence admiring the animals.
“They’re very fun,” said Jonathan Contes, 10, a 4th-grader at Paradise Canyon Elementary School. “They’re very friendly and when you tried to feed them, not like cows, they don’t really bite your fingers.”
His mother, Danielle, said it was their first time going to the event.
“It’s like a fun surprise to see the reindeer,” she said. “We definitely enjoy it. The reindeer’s a good touch.”
For most at the event, the real star was Santa. He and Mrs. Claus were mobbed by what appeared to be hundreds after he was escorted in a Crescenta Valley Sheriff’s Station SUV down Foothill Boulevard to the park.
“It’s not a rock star, it is Santa, all the way from the North Pole,” said sheriff’s Deputy Eric Matejka after Santa had been led to the park’s gazebo for the tree lighting and photos. He opened the door for Santa and Mrs. Claus. “Usually we have a [Model A hot rod], but due to the rain we couldn’t do that this time,” Matejka said. He added he really liked the change of the SUV because it has a public address system through which “Santa was able to say ‘Merry Christmas’ and ‘Happy holidays’ and ‘ho, ho, ho.’”
Matejka said he was surprised by the size of the crowd.
“It seems a little bit warmer, so I’m glad the rain lightened up and people are out here,” he said. “There was a good crowd.”
Nicholas Tam, 8, and his sister Chloe, 4, both had the opportunity to petition Santa after he arrived on stage. Nicholas asked for “Taekwondo stuff” while Chloe wanted “Hello Kitty” and “My Little Pony” toys.
“He was friendly,” Nicholas said. “He said, ‘You can get that for Christmas if you are good.’ That’s what he said to Chloe, too.”
The event was sponsored by the city of La Cañada Flintridge and the LCF Chamber of Commerce and Community Association, and Taylor’s Steak House sponsored Santa and Mrs. Claus.

see photos.

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