After a year of unprecedented loss, Palo Alto is hoping to uplift the community by resuming a longstanding local tradition next month: the May Fête Parade.
Though typically held on the first Saturday of May, this year's parade will stretch into a weeklong event, from May 1 to 8. The theme is "What a Wonderful World," based on Louis Armstrong's famous song of the same name.
"It's been a really tough year and a half for everybody," said Adam Howard, the senior community services manager for the city's recreation division. "We thought, 'Well, what better way to start to move forward than to have people really pinpoint and illustrate what makes our world a wonderful place.'"
The beloved event won't include the usual in-person fanfare of marching bands, decorative floats and children walking their pets due to COVID-19 restrictions, but instead feature a "reverse parade" where the community can walk through designated neighborhoods to view what will be a series of decorated homes, porches, doors or businesses showcasing this year's theme.
Parents and children are encouraged to decorate their homes in a way that highlights "unity and diversity" and what makes "our world such a beautiful place," Mayor Tom Dubois said in a promotional video for the event.
A contest will be held for the best decorated house, which will consider "overall theme incorporation, public appeal, craftsmanship, proportions, animations or special effects and ingenuity," according to the event website.
Three winners — one each from the culturally diverse, spring theme and people's choice categories — will be awarded a $100 gift card to a Palo Alto restaurant of their choice.
Children will also have the opportunity to show off their pets virtually if they submit a picture or video of under 30 seconds of their pets in costume or doing tricks. The clips will be compiled into one video and shared with the community. Participants can also request a cutout of their pet. Videos and pictures can be submitted here.
The first May Fête Parade was in 1924, when hundreds of children walked their pets along University Avenue. The birth of the parade predates even the larger Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City. In its nearly centurylong history, the event has only been canceled twice during World War II and in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"As mayor, I don't want to see another year go by without resuming this longstanding tradition that celebrates our youth and our community," DuBois said.
For more information, visit paloaltomayfeteparade.com. Organizers plan to upload the parade route in the coming weeks.