Parade Sunday: Thousands expected for La Jolla’s ‘Christmas in the Surf and Sand’ event

56th La Jolla Christmas Parade and Holiday Festival

■ When: Sunday, Dec. 8

■ Antique aircraft flyover: 1:50 p.m.

■ Parade begins: 2 p.m. Girard Avenue

■ Holiday Festival begins: 3:30 p.m.

■ Photos with Santa at La Jolla Rec Center, 615 Prospect St.: 3:30 p.m.

■ Tree lighting: 4:30 p.m.

■ Website:

By Pat Sherman

Forecasters are predicting “sunny skies and refreshingly cool” temperatures as a mile of marching bands, clowns, Girl Scouts, Cub Scouts, floats, fire engines, beauty queens, horses, sheep and one camel proceed down Girard Avenue in the 56th La Jolla Christmas Parade and Holiday Festival Sunday, Dec. 8.

The parade steps off from Kline Street and Girard Avenue at 2 p.m., proceeding down Girard to Prospect and Draper avenues.

Soaring through those hopefully clear skies will be a formation of antique aircraft, which each year makes several passes over Girard, just before the parade begins.

“Being up there, it’s spectacular!” enthused Bill Allen, who for three decades has orchestrated the flyover, commanding one of his own vintage biplanes. This time, the native La Jollan will be in a car, parade- waving to an estimated 25,000 spectators with wife, Claudia, at his side. The couple was selected as 2013’s “traditional” parade marshals. In Allen’s stead, a friend will pilot his silver and blue Boeing Stearman PT-17 — the last airplane owned and flown by the late actor, Steve McQueen.

“It’s a good feeling to be able to participate for the community,” said Bill, whose father was the namesake behind Willis Allen Real Estate, making significant contributions to La Jolla, including a donation of land that became Allen Field.

“My mom and dad were very generous to the community and my sisters and I have followed in that tradition,” said Allen, owner of Crystal Pier Hotel and Allen Airways Flying Museum at Gillespie Field.

Other marshals in this year’s parade include Philanthropic Marshal Sherry Berman Ahern; Military Marshals the Mount Soledad Memorial Association; several youth marshals selected by La Jolla schools; and Innovation Marshal Tyler Orion, who came out of retirement to serve as interim president of La Jolla-based CONNECT, following the death of its CEO Duane Roth this summer.

This year’s parade grand marshal is the WindanSea Surf Club, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary. This year’s parade theme, “Christmas in the Surf and Sand,” is a nod to the club.

“We’ve been doing the parade for 27 years now,” club president Ozstar De Jourday said. “We’ve won the most-spirited award for the last 10 years in a row, but being the grand marshal for the first time this year is extremely exciting.”

WindanSea’s float will include members playing Hawaiian tunes on ukuleles and a replica of the club’s historic shack at WindanSea Beach.

Though there are several parade marshals, there can be only one man donning the white beard, red cape and black boots, parade chair Ann Kerr Bache said, with both seriousness and laughter. Each year, Father Christmas rides in the final vehicle, a Packard Twin Six referred to as “The Old Black Goose” (courtesy of parade co-chair Bill Kellogg and the La Jolla Beach and Tennis Club).

“One year somebody violated the (one Santa) rule and I had to throw them out of the parade at the corner of Girard and Kline,” Kerr Bache joked. “Kids take this seriously, and they get confused if you have multiple Santas.”

At the conclusion of the parade, La Jolla Sunrise Rotary Club will transport Santa to the La Jolla Rec Center, where he will pose for photos with children.

An array of other fun and educational activities will be provided for children at the recreation center, leading up to the lighting of a Christmas/holiday tree, which each year is decorated courtesy of La Jolla-based GDC Construction.

For 10 years the company has decorated the mammoth pine, which was planted in 1984 by DGC owner George Dewhurst, the same year he founded Sunrise Rotary.

George’s father, Walter Dewhurst, was one of the first parade chairs when June Barrymore Ash and her late husband, Bob, revived the event in the early ’80s.

Pulling off a parade

Kerr Bache has a gleam in her eye when she recounts how she first witnessed the magic of the parade 16 years ago, while on sabbatical in La Jolla (where she met husband, Tom, and would go on to work for 10 years at Scripps Institution of Oceanography).

The birth of her son David (today the parade’s webmaster) spurred Kerr Bache to get more involved in the community. What better outlet than an event that promotes family and community, she reasoned.

“It really makes you feel good that you’re continuing a tradition,” Kerr Bache said, noting that four generations of some La Jolla families have attended the event together.

“A lot of people have this sense that La Jolla is a bunch of isolated, wealthy people ... (yet) every socioeconomic group is in this parade. It’s totally inclusive and everybody has a great time. It’s a great way to kind of reinvigorate the community.”

However, the event is not all fun and frolic, requiring about 30 volunteer “boots on the ground” on parade day to make sure it runs like clockwork — from the contingents being in their respective places to the floats being sprayed with a special flame retardant required by the city.

The parade takes about $60,000 a year to produce, Kerr Bache said — though a final tally isn’t typically available until January.

“I have to pay for every police (officer) that’s at the barricades,” she said of expenses, which also include a part-time, year-round administrator (Pat Wells); a $2 million insurance policy to cover the event; nearly $1,000 for a permit to use the recreation center; portable toilet rentals, trash pickup, and emergency nurse and ambulance service. “There’s a lot that goes into this parade that people don’t realize,” she said.

Though last year’s parade almost didn’t occur due to a shortage of funding, donations have been more plentiful since Kerr Bache established it as a separate, nonprofit foundation. (It was formerly under the auspices of the La Jolla Town Council Foundation.)

“The parade embraces a lot more than just people on the town council,” Kerr Bache said. “Almost every community organization in La Jolla is involved in it.”

Some of this year’s most significant sponsors include Merrill Lynch Wealth Management, La Jolla Management Co. and the San Diego County Board of Supervisors.

This year, the parade employed the fundraising prowess of former La Jolla Town Council member Debbie Dorsee and the Dorsee Company, plus parade co-chairs and donors Peter Farrell, Bill Kellogg and Jack McGrory, who each tapped their personal contacts to solicit donations — about 70 percent of which have come from private individuals this year, Dorsee noted.

“They have never been involved in the parade and they stepped up to the plate to help us keep the tradition going,” Kerr Bache said. “I’m incredibly grateful to them.”

Each year, any proceeds remaining from entry fees are used to pay the high school marching bands a stipend of about $600 for costs, such as bus rental.

Moving forward, Kerr Bache hopes to use the parade’s nonprofit status to provide more funding for school music and art programs, such as former La Jolla Kiwanis Club President Mary Talbot’s Southern California Jazz Foundation, which provides an introduction to jazz for school children.

The parade foundation is just shy of its fundraising goal for this year’s event. To donate, visit