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Jewel’s Christmas parade turns 50

The 50th Annual La Jolla Christmas Parade & Holiday Festival will once again delight thousands of revelers young and old who’ll throng the parade route running between Girard Avenue & Kline Street and Prospect & Silverado streets starting at 1:30 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 2.

What makes the event so special that it’s endured long enough to celebrate its golden anniversary? Just ask anyone who’s ever participated - or even just watched.

“It’s a great community event, it’s a great tradition,” said Glen Rasmussen, past La Jolla Town Council president and this year’s Christmas parade chair. Adding the all-volunteer event couldn’t be held without the generosity of community sponsors, Rasmussen noted: “It’s all supported by donations. If you don’t have donations, you don’t have an event.”

“It’s very homespun and homegrown,” noted Gail Forbes about the Christmas holiday parade she has spearheaded the last few years. “It really celebrates our community - Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, all the organizations that are involved, everybody pulling together. It harnesses a lot of energy in a very positive and giving manner.”

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“It’s a wonderful community event,” commented Dave Irwin, parade float chair. But more importantly, added Irwin, “it’s a lot of fun.”

For Mike Glancy, a perennial parade float entrant, it’s children’s reactions to the festivities that make the Jewel’s Christmas holiday parade something extraordinary. Glancy recalls “surprising” one particular youngster once with a huge, bubble-spewing pelican head on his float. “I turned the head toward this little kid whose eyes were wide open in amazement of this head right next to him,” said Glancy. “That was what the parade was all about: seeing that kid’s face, the joy of watching something like that. You feel good when things like that happen.”

The owner of family owned and operated Irling Rohde Plumbing, Glancy has entered floats in the parade so many years - about two dozen - friends have bestowed upon him the honorary title of “Doctor of Floatology.” Parade floats are judged in a number of different categories including humor and spirit. Rohde’s entries have been both. They’re also expensive. “I spend at least $1,000 to $1,500 to do a float,” he said, “though I could probably scrounge one for $300 or $400.”

Even a pricey float can be troublesome to deal with. Glancy learned early on, for example, where not to put his bubble machine. “I used to put the bubble machine in front and the bubbles would fall down and turn the windshield all soapy: I couldn’t see very well,” he said. “So I learned to always keep the bubble machine in the back.”

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The Jewel’s Christmas spectacular is ushered in each year by Cub Scouts of Pack 4 of La Jolla proudly marching down Girard Avenue carrying a banner reading, “La Jolla Christmas Parade.” This year the theme of the festival and parade reflect the event’s anniversary - “Christmas cheer … for Fifty Years!”

About 1,200 people throughout San Diego participate in the La Jolla parade: marching bands, ROTC units, drill teams, dancers, scout troops, float builders, equestrians, car aficionados, politicos, promoters and pranksters. The parade committee coordinates with the YMCA, Sunrise Rotary, Toastmasters, La Jolla Rotary, Kiwanis, Toys for Tots, La Jolla Park and Recreation, Inc., Friends of County Animal Shelters and Promote La Jolla, Inc., in continuing the local holiday traditions of those organizations.

But the holiday celebration is much more than just the parade. From 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. the Holiday Festival, including the YMCA’s Arts and Crafts Faire and open-air market along Silverado Street, will showcase vendors offering hand-made, hand-decorated or hand- crafted items for sale. A Kids’ Fun Zone will keep children occupied with rides and activities. Local restaurants will provide snacks, fast food or a Sunday brunch or supper. Local entertainment will feature talent on the La Jolla Stage Company’s stage at Herschel Avenue from 9:30 a.m. until 1:30 p.m. when the parade steps off at Girard Avenue. The Festival also offers room for displays and cultural outreach from any community organization in keeping with holiday traditions.

Forbes noted that the parade gets more expensive to stage each year, estimating it presently costs about $18,000 to put on with all the bells and whistles. “Every year there’s a little inflation in the base price,” she said, “increases in security, safety and liability costs.”

Parade costumes have to be fireproofed. There’s a mandatory float workshop required of contestants to go over essential safety procedures. Planned escape routes have to be determined in the event of an emergency.

Police security has become one of the parade’s most expensive items. “We’re paying for each police officer by the hour this year,” said Forbes, “which is over one-third of the budget - $6,000. You’ve got to have police protection. They will not let you go with an Explorer Scout directing traffic. Rules got stricter about three years ago.”

In 2005, the La Jolla parade’s name was challenged by a small group who felt dropping Christmas from the title and changing it to something more generic would make the event more inclusive of different cultures and faiths. That challenge was defeated by a narrow, 11-9 written-ballot vote of La Jolla Town Council.

The parade name controversy has thus far not been resurrected. Parade chair Rasmussen noted community financial support, without which the parade could not go on, has fallen away in the past when there’s been discussion of secularizing the holiday event.

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“The parade is entirely donated by the community,” Rasmussen noted. “It’s pretty much a break-even proposition. There are a number of donors who are very concerned about retaining Christmas in the name and the theme. Obviously, that carries, for some people, religious discrimination issues. But we have to try to make a judgment call when the event, itself, is more important to occur. We’ve gone through calling it a holiday parade and there just wasn’t any financial support for it.”

This year for the first time, La Jolla Historical Society’s Wisteria Cottage is decking its halls with boughs of holly in preparation of its post-parade open house on Sunday, Dec. 2nd. Located near the end of the La Jolla Christmas Parade route at 780 Prospect St., the historic Wisteria Cottage will be opened to the public from 1 to 4 p.m. providing refreshments and entertainment for guests.

La Jolla Town Council Holiday Festival & Christmas Parade

Theme: Christmas Cheer … for Fifty Years!

When: December 2nd, 2007

  • 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. Holiday Festival: on 1000 Silverado St. & 7800 block of Herschel Avenue
  • YMCA Arts & Crafts Fair –special handmade items for sale from more than 75 vendors
  • Kids Fun Zone open 9-4 p.m. at Ivanhoe & Silverado
  • Cultural Zone Herschel Ave. near Silverado
  • Entertainment Stage from 9:30 – 1:30 p.m.
  • Snack Foods & Treats open 9-4
  • Noon: Judging of Floats - Herschel Avenue at Kline
  • 1:30 p.m Christmas Parade steps off from Girard & Kline, Ends at Prospect & Silverado
  • 2 p.m. @ Firehouse,7877 Herschel. San Diego Junior Theater production of Velveteen Rabbit
  • 1- 3:30 p.m. Holiday Open House - La Jolla Historical Society, Wisteria Cottage, on Eads Ave.
  • Museum of Contemporary Art Open 11 a.m.-5 p.m.

Parade Marshalls Stress Service

This year the La Jolla Christmas Parade & Holiday Festival Committee emphasized the values of philanthropy, culture and service.

This year’s marshals include:

  • Mary Wayne - Cultural Marshal
  • Las Patronas - Philanthropic Marshal
  • Jay Kopelman, USMC, Author - Military Marshal
  • Jimmy Canale, La Jolla Cove Lifeguard - Civic Marshal
  • Tracy Jarman, San Diego Fire Chief - Grand Marshal