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La Jolla Rec board explores options for holiday festivities

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Members of the La Jolla Recreation Advisory Group discuss their options for a holiday event at the Rec Center.
(Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

Although the Holiday Festival component of the La Jolla Christmas Parade moved from the La Jolla Rec Center to the Athenaeum Music & Arts Library in 2018, the La Jolla Recreation Advisory Group (LJRAG) would still like to have a role in the festivities, as discussed at its Sept. 25 meeting at the Rec Center.

This year’s Holiday Festival will begin at 11 a.m. Sunday, Dec. 8 at 1008 Wall St., with the Christmas Parade starting at 1:30 p.m. down Girard Avenue. The 2019 theme is “Christmas on the Moon,” to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the 1969 lunar landing.

In past years, the Holiday Festival was held at the Rec Center after the Parade.

LJRAG trustee and Parade volunteer Gail Forbes explained that part of the reason for the changes was because organizers have been trying to end the festival “as quickly as possible when the parade is over” to have Santa Claus’ arrival be the grand finale.

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La Jolla Christmas Parade & Holiday Festival chair Ann Kerr Bache told the Light after the meeting: “that’s because volunteers are on site as early as 6 a.m. and having the Holiday Festival after the Parade makes for a long day for participants and families.”

Of the move to the Athenaeum, Kerr Bache said it was to reduce costs, and because the 60-foot Star Pine tree on the Rec Center grounds was too costly and difficult to decorate.

Stepping back from a full Holiday Festival, LJRAG would like to host a tree-lighting “experience” take place at the Rec Center with activities and singers from school choirs.

However, a date and slate of events would be pending approval by the San Diego Department of Park & Recreation.

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One option would be to have the tree-lighting on the Saturday before the Parade (Dec. 7) to usher in the holiday weekend. Another option is have it Sunday afternoon/evening (Dec. 8) as a dovetail from the Parade.

But which tree to light — and whether permits could be secured in time — posed a dilemma.

For decades, the Community Christmas Tree was the Star Pine fronting the Rec Center. But since it has grown so tall, an expensive-to-rent cherry-picker must be used to string the lights. With costs to decorate the tree rising, the board opted last year to bring in a smaller tree that could be strung using a step ladder and easily lit.

Should the board decide to bring in an outside service to string lights and illuminate the large tree, a Right of Entry permit would be required, which takes about 45 days to secure.

However, if the board were to bring in their own temporary tree and decorate it, a Right of Entry permit would not be required (a mention of the latter led to a few groans from the board).

Hoping to obtain the permits in time, LJRAG vice-chair Mary Coakley-Munk made a motion to apply for a Right of Entry permit to light the tree the weekend of the Christmas Parade, which passed.

As a follow-up, she suggested the board contact the City’s Special Events permitting office, the police department and Parade organizers to see if Sunday after the Parade would be an event option, to take advantage of the crowd already in The Village.

If not, the board would request having its event on Saturday.

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Should nothing pan out for that weekend, an alternative would be to change the pre-planned “Lunch with Santa,” on Dec. 14, into a “Snacks with Santa” or “Dinner with Santa” that would culminate in a tree lighting.

“Lunch with Santa” is set for 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 14 and includes snacks, activities and photo opportunities with a volunteer Santa.

The event is open to ages 2-10, and early registration is required. The cost is $5 per child. (858) 552-1658. bit.ly/ljreccenter

— La Jolla Recreation Advisory Group next meets 5 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 23 at the Rec Center, 615 Prospect St.

—Learn more about the La Jolla Christmas Parade & Holiday Festival at ljparade.com


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