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La Jolla Christmas Parade names marshals who represent local history

Sherry Ahern, Margaret Leinen, parade co-chair Bill Kellogg, Nancy Warwick, Summer Shoemaker, Craig Gagliardi and Kevin Ahern
La Jolla Christmas Parade co-chairman Bill Kellogg (third from left) stands with parade marshals Sherry Ahern, Margaret Leinen, Nancy Warwick (seated), Summer Shoemaker, Craig Gagliardi and Kevin Ahern.
(Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

Looking to honor La Jolla’s past, the upcoming La Jolla Christmas Parade & Holiday Festival has named parade marshals who represent some of the area’s most iconic and long-standing institutions.

The 66th annual parade, themed “Grand Ole Christmas: Celebrating La Jolla’s History,” will begin at 1:30 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 4, at Girard Avenue and Kline Street and end at the La Jolla Recreation Center at 615 Prospect St.

Warwick’s bookstore, which has spent the past 71 years on Girard Avenue, is being honored, with owner Nancy Warwick serving as grand marshal.

Other honorees include technology marshal Margaret Leinen, director of UC San Diego’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography; traditional marshal Summer Shoemaker, general manager of the La Valencia Hotel; civic marshal Craig Gagliardi, president of the Kiwanis Club of La Jolla; philanthropy marshals Kevin and Sherry Ahern; cultural marshal Christie Mitchell, executive director of the Athenaeum Music & Arts Library; and a military marshal to be determined.

Bagpipers play holiday tunes during the La Jolla Christmas Parade in 2021.
(Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

Shoemaker said the “Pink Lady,” as the La Valencia Hotel on Prospect Street is known, is part of La Jolla’s legacy. “We just finished our 95th year [in business],” she said. “I think that says a lot about how La Valencia has been a foundation for the community and continues to be so today. We like being the living room for the community where people gather and celebrate.”

Shoemaker said it is “a huge honor” to be named a parade marshal and that “I’m very proud to represent the many employees that have been part of La Valencia and the culture we have, but also this iconic property and all that it represents.”

Leinen noted that Scripps Oceanography’s history goes back to the late 1800s and early 1900s with early support from La Jolla philanthropist Ellen Browning Scripps.

“We’ve been a part of the community and related to the community so closely because of her philanthropy,” Leinen said. “It’s wonderful to be a marshal in the parade. … It’s wonderful to have everyone getting back together and to be the technology marshal, because technology is so much a part of this community with the university and Salk [Institute for Biological Studies] and everything that has sprouted here.”

Dancers perform during the 2020 La Jolla Christmas Parade, in which spectators drove by because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Students from Ooh La La Dance Academy perform during the 2020 La Jolla Christmas Parade, in which spectators drove by because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
(Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

Though the Aherns said they did not expect to be honored as philanthropy marshals, Sherry Ahern said “it’s nice to be recognized … [but] giving back is our way of life.”

Sherry Ahern founded the weekly La Jolla Open Aire Market that benefits La Jolla Elementary School and founded the annual La Jolla Art & Wine Festival, which benefits La Jolla’s five public schools. She also has received service awards from numerous organizations.

She and Kevin Ahern were honored earlier this year for their contributions to the San Diego Opera, where “Kevin played an important role in influencing many of the Hispanic initiatives that have created a lasting change in our community,” the opera said.

La Jolla’s parade is “an institution and a community event,” Sherry Ahern said. “We’re a small community and we should embrace these types of events and have more of them. Things change all the time, but it’s nice when things stay the same because there is comfort in it. I love being in the parade because it makes me feel like a kid again.”

She said she particularly enjoys “seeing the kids who are seeing it for the first time next to their parents that have been going their whole lives.”

Santa Claus waves to onlookers during the 2021 La Jolla Christmas Parade.
Rolling through La Jolla on the Old Black Goose car that traditionally carries him, Santa Claus waves to onlookers during the 2021 La Jolla Christmas Parade.
(Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

Similarly for Gagliardi, seeing the children at the parade and holiday festival makes the experience enjoyable.

“It’s an absolute riot,” he said. “The kids being so excited is really cool.”

Representing the Kiwanis Club of La Jolla, which donated $8,000 to the parade, Gagliardi said being a part of events like this is in line with the club’s mission.

“Kiwanis is a great organization that raises $200,000 a year and gives all that money back out to organizations for philanthropy, community service and sponsoring events like this,” he said. “Our wheelhouse is anything with kids and the community.”

“Things change all the time, but it’s nice when things stay the same because there is comfort in it. I love being in the parade because it makes me feel like a kid again.”

— Sherry Ahern

Preceding the parade is the Holiday Festival, which will begin at 11:30 a.m. in front of the Athenaeum Music & Arts Library at 1008 Wall St. According to event chairwoman Ann Kerr Bache, the festival will include visits and photos with Santa Claus, play-based and educational exhibits, a menorah and Christmas tree display and more.

“The festival has grown this year with several community organizations partnering to provide lots of fun activities,” Kerr Bache said. “The Museum of Contemporary Art will have tables set up for kids’ arts and crafts projects, the [La Jolla] Historical Society will have a craft table with supplies from which kids can make their own miniature structures … and the [La Jolla] Riford Library will have a table with fun activities for kids to create.”

She added that the nearby Yiddish center on Wall Street will participate for the first time, “sharing their cultural traditions and holidays, displaying a menorah and hosting musicians to perform.”

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