Town Square

May Fete parade rolling through Palo Alto Saturday

Original post made on Apr 30, 2008

The 86th Annual May Fete Parade will take place Saturday, May 3, starting at 10 a.m. in downtown Palo Alto. The theme of this year's parade is "Moovin' and Groovin' — A Celebration of Keeping Active." Members of the Stanford women's basketball team, who were finalists in this year's NCAA championships, will be the parade's Grand Marshals.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, April 30, 2008, 2:13 PM


Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 30, 2008 at 5:01 pm

Shouldn't we advertise better than this that the STREETS WILL BE CLOSED in downtown on Saturday. Seriously, some of us have to get to other events and this is the first I heard that STREETS WILL BE CLOSED.

Like this comment
Posted by Kevin
a resident of Monroe Park
on Apr 30, 2008 at 6:17 pm

"The 86th Annual May Fete Parade"

I have lived in Palo Alto for over 40 years. It used to be called the May Day parade, unless my memory is completely scrambled. Am I delusional? Why was the name changed, or was it always called the "May Fete" parade?

Like this comment
Posted by Pat Markevitch
a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 30, 2008 at 7:43 pm

Resident: The streets downtown are always closed for this parade for the safety of the participants. It happens on the first Saturday in May every year. You will be able to get across town (North/South) by taking either Middlefield, Alma or El Camino as those streets will be open.

Kevin: I remember calling it the May Day parade too.

Like this comment
Posted by MidtownMom
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 30, 2008 at 9:23 pm

Since 2002 its been May Fete Parde .. don't know when they added the 'Annual' part ..

Like this comment
Posted by Mary
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 1, 2008 at 12:57 am

Oh for Pete's Sake!! May Day or May Fete - who cares? It's being going on for 86 years, it's lots of fun - a wonderful sight and wonderful tradition. Our children participated years ago - dragging the hamster in a wagon in its cage, leading a reluctant dog, marching with little baton twirlers, or the schools or the Scouts or the Paly Band. Readers - go, park your car in the Bryant Steet garage or someplace, get a latte, stroll, cheer, have fun. Be a kid again. We're almost eighty and we wouldn't miss it.

Like this comment
Posted by Penny
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 1, 2008 at 1:42 pm

Resident, I think those roads are closed EVERY year for the parade for the last twenty years or so. They (whoever they is) probably figure everyone already knows.

I think it has been the May Fete parade officially since I was a kid (I'm over thirty) but we always called it the May Day parade...

Like this comment
Posted by Carrie
a resident of another community
on May 1, 2008 at 8:48 pm

I'm a Paly grad and I don't even live in CA anymore but I will always have fond memories of the May Fete Parade. No other state or country I've ever lived in does something this special....embrace it people, don't take it for granted...You pay enough to live in Palo Alto, very few people in the world can - so get over the "inconvenience" of a few street closures. Show up and and cheer the kids on - isn't the speciality of the town the reason why you chose to live there in the first place?

Like this comment
Posted by FirstTimeFan
a resident of Menlo Park
on May 1, 2008 at 10:50 pm

Coming from MP, what's the best place to park for this event? Will the usual parking garages be open? Thanks for the info!

Like this comment
Posted by Susie
a resident of Los Altos Hills
on May 2, 2008 at 10:52 am

FistTimeFan, I would take Lytton and park in the garage on Bryant.

Like this comment
Posted by Jay Thorwaldson
editor emeritus
on May 2, 2008 at 8:05 pm

Jay Thorwaldson is a registered user.

Hi -- One would think that after 86 years it wouldn't need to be announced at all, but we posted a notice that it was happening online and printed an advance in Friday's paper.

One of my annual assignments when I a kid reporter for the old Palo Alto Times was to cover the annual May Parade and Fete, I believe. Or it could have been the May Fete and Parade, but that seems backwards because the parade was always first.

The parade would start in the vicinity of High Street and Lytton Avenue, go down unversity, cut back to Lytton and end in the grounds of the old Lytton School, at Lytton and Middlefield (where Lytton Gardens senior housing now is -- perhaps with some residents who once attended the school there?).

When Lytton Gardens was built in the 1970s they moved the May Fete/disassembly site to Addison School and the parade when from University down Webster Street, to the delight of Channing House residents -- one of whom puts out life-sized stuffed gorillas.

It was always a "kids' parade" with small bands, decorated wagons, decorated bikes, decorated pets and drill teams from various schools. There was a move in the national Bicentennial year of 1976 to make it into a big-scale parade with large balloon figures and floats -- but early publicity about that idea resulted in a revolt of the kids and parents and the parade stayed for the kids.

Until the early 1970s there was a kids-and-horses section, with the grand streetsweeper machine, also decorated, bringing up the rear, so to speak. But the daughter of a councilwoman brought her horse down from Portola Valley to her back yard one year, the horse got out, wandered to El Camino Real, panicked and tragically got hit by a car and had to be put down. After that sad incident they ended the horse contingent.

When the old Batman TV show hit one year, suddenly there were about 500 little Batmen running around in the costume sections. Likewise with Star Wars came the Darth Vader masks and lightsabers and Wookie suits.

On one of the parade's anniversaries, parade organizers tracked down the first parade/May Fete queen and some princesses, and they were featured, quite grey and dignified but having almost as much fun as when they were shining children decades before.

It is traditions such as this that make a community whole -- even if it may inconvenience someone from their Saturday rounds.


Like this comment
Posted by Native Girl
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 2, 2008 at 10:04 pm

I remember when The Children's Theater made the beautiful costumes for the queen, king, princesses, and royal court. They made fabulous costumes for many other characters in the parade.

I believe that Children's Theater also provided the royal music.

I was a princess one year, a flower the next, and then a gingerbread man. I recall that it was usually very hot, and our professionally applied makeup (by Children's Theater), would practically be melting off even before we got started.

We used to assemble on the lawn of the Community Center under the oak trees. This was about 40 + years ago.

A photographer from Children's Theater took 8X10 black and white glossy photographs each year.

It is fun to be able to look back on them, and show my children.

As a child, this seemed like the biggest event of the year in Palo Alto.

The memories are wonderful!

Like this comment
Posted by Gabrielle
a resident of Community Center
on May 3, 2008 at 9:27 am

Thank you everyone for taking the time sharing your history of the parade and the practicalities of attending. I read them outloud to my husband and daughter and everyone is smiling in anticipation. I can see the little wagon being pulled down the street with the family dog and the 500 little batmen must have been an amazing site!

Like this comment
Posted by Leah
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 3, 2008 at 10:23 am

I think that the signs for the parking violations should be stated more clearly...

Like this comment
Posted by sara
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 3, 2008 at 2:48 pm

great event, I noticed that there was a very large police presence both uniformed and undercover a the parade itself and at Addison

Is this usual?

Unfortunately we probably need it these days

Like this comment
Posted by Pat Markevitch
a resident of Downtown North
on May 3, 2008 at 4:23 pm

Leah, those signs have been up for over a week. No Parking means No Parking and I'm not sure what you mean by violations should be stated more clearly.

Sara, there was nothing unusual about the police presence. They were situated at every intersection along the route as added safety for the participants because even though there were road closed signs posted and road blockades up and no parking signs all along the route, there will still be people who don't believe any of it and will try to drive around the blockades thinking that the rules must not apply to them.

Like this comment
Posted by Mary Carlstead
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 3, 2008 at 4:33 pm

What a wonderful morning. My husband and I, senior citizens, loved every minute of it.
Beautiful weather, the five bands- two from Jordan, Gunn, Paly, and JLS have terrific musicians. The children, floats, costumes, pets, clowns - and the Stanford women's basketball team on convertibles waving to the crowd. Brought back memories of our children many years ago in Scouts, twirlers, Cubs, and bands. Thank you Palo Alto Weekly and the Palo Alto Parks and Recreation Department for sponsoring this again and to all who made this such a glorious morning. It was so well organized with each unit identified.
Seems like every child in Palo Alto and parents were marching down the street. If you have never seen this , be sure to go next year.

Like this comment
Posted by Lilly
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 29, 2009 at 11:57 am

Will Twisters Gymnastics perform at the parade?

Like this comment
Posted by marie
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 2, 2009 at 9:46 am

it's actually been called the may fete parade since 2000 at least.

Like this comment
Posted by Rhoda
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 3, 2013 at 7:28 pm

I remember wearing a hula skirt and my brothers wore footed pajamas with yogi bear mask in the sixties. The 70's we had Downtown Children Center float with lots of little children, Lisa Jobs was one of them. In the late eighties my daughter would participate in the events. Great times. We also had The Palo Alto Ball, with Rick Herns.