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‘A wonderful hometown event’: La Jolla Christmas Parade & Holiday Festival returns to its usual format Dec. 5

Tammy Spounias of Kiki's Alterations in La Jolla holds the banner the company donated for the 2021 La Jolla Christmas Parade.
Tammy Spounias of Kiki’s Alterations in La Jolla holds the banner the company donated for the 2021 La Jolla Christmas Parade, to be held Sunday, Dec. 5.
(Kiki Spounias)

The 65th annual La Jolla Christmas Parade & Holiday Festival is gearing up to march into The Village on Sunday, Dec. 5, returning to its usual format after adapting to COVID-19 restrictions last year.

About 8,000 people are expected to line the streets as the parade, featuring about 80 groups or floats and more than 1,300 participants, rolls through starting at 1:30 p.m. An antique plane flyover sponsored by La Jollan Bill Allen and the Allen Airways Flying Museum will kick things off.

The parade will begin at Girard Avenue and Kline Street and run north on Girard, turn left on Prospect Street and end at Prospect and Draper Avenue in front of the La Jolla Recreation Center.

The parade is themed “Spirit of La Jolla — Celebrating Hometown Heroes,” which parade president Ann Kerr Bache said is meant to reflect “on the past difficult year with COVID and [honor] those organizations and individuals who have helped the community.”

The parade’s grand marshals are Lee Lescano, representing The Salvation Army, and Deacon Jim Vargas, representing Father Joe’s Villages, “in recognition of their organizations’ contributions to La Jolla, San Diego and the nation,” Kerr Bache said.

The parade also will feature honorary marshals Cindy Goodman, president of the Rotary Club of La Jolla, for philanthropy; Cindy Benitez-Kodama, who recently retired from the San Diego Special Events & Filming Department, for her years of assistance to the parade; astronaut and Scripps Institution of Oceanography graduate Jessica Meir for her work in space; and a representative of the Mount Soledad Memorial Association for its work to recognize military heroism.

The “Hometown Heroes” recently honored by the La Jolla Town Council will march behind their own banner, Kerr Bache said.

Amid tables adorned with decorative gems representing La Jolla’s reputation as “the jewel of San Diego,” 10 honorees were recognized by the La Jolla Town Council as 2021 “Hometown Heroes.”

The parade entries include 11 bands and 14 marching units, including La Jolla High School, La Jolla Country Day School and University City High School.

There also will be equestrians, vintage vehicles, fire engines, pageant queens, Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts, Kerr Bache said.

The Holiday Festival will begin at 11:30 a.m. along Wall Street between Girard and Herschel avenues. It will include Meir attending a meet-and-greet to talk about her space exploration, along with socially distanced Santa Claus visits, a photo booth and “surprise” entertainment, Kerr Bache said.

Annie Benaroch, owner of Parisien Gourmandises, will present a "Festival of Lights" during La Jolla's Holiday Festival.
Annie Benaroch, owner of French kosher bakery Parisien Gourmandises on Girard Avenue, will present a “Festival of Lights” exhibit during La Jolla’s Holiday Festival on Dec. 5.
(Courtesy of Annie Benaroch)

A “Festival of Lights” exhibit will be presented by Annie Benaroch, owner of Parisien Gourmandises, a French kosher bakery on Girard Avenue.

Nurses will be on hand during the parade and festival, compliments of La Jolla Nurses Homecare, along with ambulances to assist with safety, Kerr Bache said.

Last year, the La Jolla Christmas Parade was reimagined as a “reverse parade” with about 20 stationary floats along a shortened route as spectators drove by in their cars. The change was brought about by the pandemic.

“This year,” Kerr Bache said, “I think there’s a sense of ‘Oh my gosh, finally we can get back to normal.’”

So many people registered to march in the parade that she had to cut off registration earlier than usual, she added. “People are really excited to be able to do it.”

The Christmas Parade & Holiday Festival is funded by community donations and grants, Kerr Bache said. Donations are still being sought, she added, and La Jollan Sherry Ahern — one of the Hometown Heroes recognized by the Town Council — will assist with fundraising the day of the event.

Much of the money has been raised by Bill Kellogg and Jack McGrory (another of the Town Council’s Hometown Heroes), Kerr Bache said. They are being recognized this year as “special hometown heroes,” she said.

Kerr Bache said donors, volunteers, participants and spectators all work together to “make the parade a wonderful hometown event.”

For more information on the La Jolla Christmas Parade & Holiday Festival, visit ljparade.com.