Village preparing for annual La Jolla Christmas Parade

Fewer than two weeks remain until the 58th annual La Jolla Christmas Parade & Holiday Festival returns to Girard Avenue and the La Jolla Recreation Center 1:30 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 6, and organizers are promising traditional favorites along with some exciting additions.

The parade’s theme will be “100 Years of Christmas Cheer,” commemorating a long history of holiday celebrations in La Jolla dating to before the parade was officially instituted 58 years ago, said event chair Ann Kerr Bache. Participants will include the La Jolla High, La Jolla Country Day and University City High School marching bands — among others — along with a younger marching band from University City’s Mission Bay Montessori Academy.

Those who’ve attended the parade before, Kerr Bache said, will be delighted to know Santa Claus will travel the parade route riding the Old Black Goose provided by La Jolla Beach & Tennis Club. At the head of the parade, either Abdul or Omar the Camel will lead the contingent alongside a donkey. New attractions will include two food trucks and pony rides at the Holiday Festival.

The food trucks, to be located near the corner of Girard Avenue and Silverado Street, will provide sandwiches and homemade donuts. “That’ll help the kids — and maybe 1,500 to 2,000 people in the parade — as they start assembling as early as 10 o’clock and need some food,” Kerr Bache said.

One group of participants has been preparing for its performance since Veterans Day. Since then, the young marching band at Mission Bay Montessori Academy has dedicated an extra dozen or so hours per week practicing its routine.

“We did the Halloween Parade, we do the Veterans Day concert, and then the very next day, we’re on this parade music,” said band director, Deb O’Neill. “As soon as the patriotic music gets put away, it’s boom! We’re out (practicing).”

Montessori flutist and five-year band member Katherine Huang, 11, said this time of year can be both exciting and stressful. “It makes band really fun,” she said. “But you have to practice. I get to challenge myself and see if I can do certain things. It feels really good inside when I accomplish what I couldn’t do at first.”

A couple of years behind Huang in experience, 9-year-old trombonist Andrew Hilgers said the quick switch from one season’s program to the next is a challenge, but worth it. “We march in a parade,” Hilgers said, noting this will be his third as a band member, but only the second he’ll have performed in. “I have moved up a lot, and I feel like my tone has improved.”

The La Jolla Christmas Parade & Holiday Festival Foundation, the nonprofit that organizes the pair of events, expects around 25,000 spectators for the parade and 5,000 attendees at the festival afterward. The annual community Christmas Tree Lighting is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. at the corner of Draper Avenue and Prospect Street that day.

Despite the new additions, Kerr Bache said she’s most excited about the slate of returning entertainment that La Jollans have come to recognize. From more than a dozen bands to the many floats and other attractions that are a part of the celebration each year, the 2015 version of the parade should not disappoint in its variety.

“One of the floats will have Kung-Fu Panda on it; some of the floats will have beauty queens,” Kerr Boche said. “We’ve got gorgeous vintage vehicles. We have 14 equestrian entries, which probably have 60 or so riders.”

Interest in parade participation was high, she added, noting that organizers had to turn away many would-be entries. Those that signed up in time include fire engines and Boy Scouts, canine units and a group performing Chinese Lion Dances. “The real thing is coming back and seeing, year-after-year, all the fun as things change, yet remain the same,” Kerr Bache said.

Floats include entries from All Hallows Academy, American Legion La Jolla Post 275, San Diego French American School, Ooh La La Dance Academy, Stella Maris Academy, Pantai Inn, Rohde Plumbing, Italian American Academy and WindanSea Surf Club. Parade staples such as marshals and marching units from numerous schools, churches, organizations and clubs from La Jolla and greater San Diego will keep parade-goers on Girard Avenue entertained for over an hour before the fun moves to the Rec Center for the annual Holiday Festival.

La Jolla Recreation Center will serve as Grand Marshal of the parade, represented by Cindy Greatrex and Doug Dawson. Martha Dennis and Dolly Woo will represent the La Jolla Music Society and Conrad Prebys Performing Arts Center, as Cultural Marshals. Melinda Merryweather will be the Traditional Marshal, while retired Navy Vice Adm. Walter Davis will be the Innovation Marshal. Henry Chiu will be the Civic Marshal and retired Navy Rear Adm. Mac MacLaughlin, the Military Marshal.

The parade starts at the corner of Girard Avenue and Kline Street, and proceeds west on Girard Avenue before it takes a turn south down Prospect Street. From there, the contingent will travel five blocks to the parade’s finish line at the corner of Prospect Street and Draper Avenue, near the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego. Spectators will have to be keen of street parking closures affecting areas on the north end of the route.

Kerr Bache said this year’s event will cost $75,000, funded by private donations. John Barbey, Audrey Geisel and the Dr. Seuss Foundation serve as the largest sponsors, she said, with Jack McGrory, a co-chair, also a major sponsor, along with many others. The La Jolla Christmas Parade & Holiday Festival Foundation continues to accept donations to ensure the program’s costs are fully covered. Interested donors can visit and click the “Donate” tab to contribute.