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Parade name change unfavorable at meeting

Impassioned pleas were made at a March 1 meeting to discuss a plan to strike Christmas from the name of the community’s year-end parade.

Those in favor of removing the religious holiday reference from the the Christmas Parade and Holiday Festival argued doing so will make the event more all-inclusive to those with differing cultural views. Those opposing changing the name insist the Christmas Parade is a tradition that has always been open to everyone.

A room vote of those remaining at the end of the 75-minute meeting sponsored by a the La Jolla Town Council was 46 in favoring of keeping Christmas in the parade title, with 13 favoring a name change, perhaps naming it the Holiday Parade.

At the beginning of the meeting, parade committee co-chair Gail Forbes said they got similar results with a survey of parade participants by mail and e-mail. She said an overwhelming majority favored keeping the parade name as it is.

Forbes said that the parade lost money last year, due in part to rain, but also because $5,000 had to be paid in fees to the city for permits and police protection.

Forbes read a mission statement for the parade, stating that since reinstating the parade in 1983, the La Jolla Town Council has assumed the major role in organizing the community celebration of a national holiday.

About 20 residents and Town Councilmembers spoke out at the meeting for and against changing the parade name.

Eye surgeon Louis Kartsonis said he hopes the Town Council decides to keep Christmas in the name.

“Certain members of the Jewish community have leveled anti-Semitic charges against this event because of its name,” Karsonis said. “Anyone leveling charges of anti-Semitism against this event because it is associated with a Christian holiday goes beyond the pale and is intolerant. I hope you will not be intimidated by this bunch of leftists who engage in sophistry and demagoguery to further their political agenda.”

La Jolla Town Councilman Ray Weiss said he favors changing the parade’s name, but isn’t sure what to call it instead.

“This is not about religion,” Weiss said. “It’s not a religious parade put on by a church or any other religious organization, but by the Town Council. I don’t think this has anything to do with bigotry. It’s about whether the Town Council parade has a name that represents all of the people who live here.”

Forty-five year resident Roger Wiggins said the tradition of the parade needs to be honored. “It’s been here for a long time and excludes no one.”

Lance Peto, who owns Bud’s Barbecue in the Village, wants to retain the name.

“The parade is about children,” Peto said. “It really is about children coming out and seeing Santa Claus during the beginning of the holiday season.”

La Jollans Jack McGrory and Murray Galinson sent a letter late last year to the La Jolla Town Council. It called on the group to consider changing the parade name to make it more inclusive. Both were present at the March 1 meeting.

“I’m a little sorry I wrote the letter,” said Galinson. “I certainly didn’t expect the negative response by some people. This isn’t a religious issue or a matter of anti-Semitism. I just suggested it would be great to include everybody in our community in this parade. It’s just an attempt to bring people into the parade.”

McGrory added that the parade name wasn’t the burning social issue of the day.

“I’m suprised it’s gotten as much attention as it’s gotten,” he said. “We just think that some traditions should be changed. This community and its demographics has changed a lot over the last 40 years. There are a lot of different religious holidays during this month. We’re just suggesting this parade be more inclusive in terms of its name.”

McGrory reminded the council that Balboa Park changed Christmas on the Prado to December Nights with no ill effects.

“They’ve gotten more attendance,” said McGrory. “I think this community ought to do the same thing.”

City Councilman Scott Peters, contacted prior to the March 1 meeting, was loathe to choose sides over a name change.

“The parade is a decades-long tradition in La Jolla,” he said, “and is put on by volunteers at the La Jolla Town Council without any significant financial support from the city of San Diego. I believe that naming the parade is the prerogative of those volunteers.”

Simon Andrews of the La Jolla Community Planning Association offered another angle on the name change issue.

“The town is better for its inclusiveness today,” he said. “I wish that people would focus on finding a way to make it both successful and inclusive. I don’t think anybody’s even approached it from the point of view of running it more successfully. I think it’s worth looking at from a positive, problem-solving way.”

Dave Ish was associated with the Town Council when the parade was revived back in 1983, after a several-year hiatus. Before the meeting, Ish said he supports changing the parade name, but has one further suggestion.

“I have no problem with it being called the Holiday Parade whatsoever,” he said. “But I think those who want to change the name should be willing to step up to the plate and put their money and their elbow grease where their mouth is to support it.”

Town Councilwoman Sherry Ahern feels the name should be changed. “It’s always better to be politically correct in this day. Some people are saying the Jews are putting everyone up to this. That’s not true. We’re trying to make things more open to all, and I think we’re behind the times.”

Prior to the meeting, Town Councilman Glen Rasmussen said some councilmembers are coming under pressure

“Some trustees are businesspeople,” said Rasmussen, “and they have had their customers say, ‘If you vote one way or another, I’m not going to patronize you.’ ”

It will be up to the La Jolla Town Council’s 15 members to decide whether Christmas stays in the parade name.