fake snow
FRENZY - Children and families rush into the fake snow during the tree lighting ceremony at Plaza Park. (Drew Penner / Los Gatan)

It’s been 100 years since Estelle Harwood McMurtry, one of the ladies of the History Club, led the charge to plant a tree in what’s now called Plaza Park, and on Friday it felt like the whole town came out to celebrate the milestone.

Karen Loomis, 63, who’s lived here since 1989, was enchanted by the gathering.

Howard and Karen Loomis. (Drew Penner / Los Gatan)

“It’s a lovely community tradition,” she said.

Loomis said she appreciated how there were “lots of families” and “many generations all here together celebrating what we have in common.”

She also brought her husband of 43 years, Howard, who said he was having a blast, as well.

“It’s awesome,” he said, when asked what he thought of the event. “Can’t you see? Look at the lights.”

And it was great to see the dogs running around, he added.

Erin Vittal, a Monte Sereno resident, was further in the crowd watching her stepdaughter Aasha Vittal, 13, who was in the front row of choristers.

“She’s great,” Vittal commented. “She sings around the house constantly. She’s always singing. This is a big part of her social life, this choir.”

Vittal families
Vittal family after the choral performance. (Drew Penner / Los Gatan)

The teen’s been looking forward to this performance for some time, her father Harsha added.

“This is like the highlight of the season for her,” he said. “She’s been talking about it forever.”

Once the musical showcase was over, Aasha admitted she had, in fact, been quite nervous.

“It was stressful, you know,” she said. “It felt amazing afterwards.”

She added that it was interesting to deal with the complex dynamics of singing for the landmark outdoor event.

“It was really fun,” she said. “I was really proud of myself.”

Susan Franks of Los Gatos stood near the fake snow machine, which was whipping children into a frenzy, and said she’d like to see more activities for toddlers.

“I worry about them stepping on each other,” she said. “But they’re having a great time.”

Samyak Mahto was one of the children enamored with the false flurries.

Taylor Culbertson, a San Jose resident, said the firetrucks were a nice touch.

The Schissler family, who call Los Gatos home, gathered for a photo with Santa.

Much has changed since Daniel Roberts dropped by the Los Gatan’s booth a couple years ago during a Holiday Promenade.

The Roberts at the tree-lighting
Daniel and Ruta Roberts. (Drew Penner / Los Gatan)

Not only did he tie the knot with his new wife Ruta the other day, but as they enjoyed the tree-lighting, he was just hours away from firing up a new analog radio signal (92.9 FM) in town.

“We’re starting a community station in Los Gatos,” he said. “We’ll have some Christmas programming.”

Members of the Schissler family, from Los Gatos, pose with Santa Claus. (Drew Penner / Los Gatan)

Parade delivers festive moments 

As the Holidays Parade got underway at 11am on Saturday, Karyn Bordoni, 37, was perched right where the floats snaked their way from North Santa Cruz Avenue onto Main Street.

“It’s lovely,” she said, noting she’d arrived with her husband and three children at 10:20am. “It pretty much started right on time.”

The former Saratoga resident, who now lives in Los Gatos, said she was loving the marching bands.

Isaac, her 10-year-old son, brought a small football to toss around in Plaza Park.

“I can run around anytime I want, because I have this nice park right here,” he said. “I like playing catch with my dad.”

family of five
The Bordonis, from Saratoga, got to town with plenty of time to spare. (Drew Penner / Los Gatan)

He said he was a fan of the parade, too.

After all, Isaac explained, one of his friends was supposed to be walking by any minute as part of a Boy Scouts of America contingent.

Phil Knopf
Phil Knopf. (Drew Penner / Los Gatan)

On the other side of the street, Phil Knopf, 81, of the Los Gatos Youth Park group, was pretty amped-up.

“This was the greatest group that we had,” he said, complimenting them on their timing. “Great weather for it after last year’s rain.”

Just moments after he made this statement, it began spitting out—but nothing compared to the chilly soak-fest of the prior installment. Plus, it was still relatively warm out.

Bryan Mekechuck, at the time still Monte Sereno’s mayor, was now watching the parade from the sidewalk alongside fellow Council member Javed Ellahie, since they’d been walking in it closer to the front, and so finished early.

“It’s a wonderful thing,” he said of the event. “This is the Los Gatos / Monte Sereno / South Bay community.”

“It’s good to see everybody participate,” Ellahie chimed in.

Mekechuck took stock of how much he’d accomplished as mayor, since his interview at last year’s parade with the Los Gatan—on the eve of his mayorship.

Monte Sereno mayor and wife
Bryan Mekechuk and wife Jo-Ann Sinclair. (Drew Penner / Los Gatan)

“We have a community center committee made up of nine people,” he said. “We’ve got the design completed.”

Suddenly, his wife, Jo-Anne Sinclair, appeared and began snapping photos.

“He really built a sense of community for Monte Sereno,” she said.

Randy Shelton of San Jose said he particularly liked the Billy Jones Wildcat Railroad steam train.

Laura Robledo, a hairstylist at Los Gatos Beauty Bar, managed to steal away from work for a few minutes to watch.

“I just came out here to enjoy the show,” she said. “The whole street is full.”

Nearby, the pajama’d Hamilton family, gathered for a group photo.

Ryan Carlson, the owner of SkyBlue Pools, couldn’t help but think about how he was in the parade back when he was a kid.

Christmas pajamas
The Hamiltons rocking their best pajama-wear. (Drew Penner / Los Gatan)

“I think it’s great to see the community come together,” he said. “Post-Covid, it’s great to see the people come back out and be excited about the holidays.”

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Drew Penner is an award-winning Canadian journalist whose reporting has appeared in the Globe and Mail, Good Times Santa Cruz, Los Angeles Times, Scotts Valley Press Banner, San Diego Union-Tribune, KCRW and the Vancouver Sun. Please send your Los Gatos and Santa Cruz County news tips to [email protected].


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