The Encinitas Holiday Parade rolled down Coast Highway 101 Saturday. The weather cooperated with the annual festivities allowing clear skies by the time Santa and Mrs. Claus lit the tree at the Lumberyard shopping center at 5 p.m.
In honor of the city’s surf culture, the “Stoked for the Holidays” theme was on full display. Surfboards, woodies and Hawaiian outfits were a common backdrop as beach music mixed with Christmas carols.
“I think the nostalgia of the parade this year is in line with what a lot of us remember growing up,” said Barry Spence. The 60-year-old resident remembered well the city’s growth that spilled onto the surf breaks.
“It’s gotten a little more crowded and like everything, the shoreline has changed, too,” he said. “The parade is always something that has been around that we can count on,” he said.
Adventure scout troops and Indian princess groups waited anxiously atop razor scooters until they were called to join the line of floats and marching bands. “This is my first time in the parade,” Encinitas resident Jeremy Donnelley, 7, said. “My Mom is with me so I’m not worried about messing up.”
An estimated 20,000 people attended the annual event in 2011 according to city staff and this year attendance record likely surpassed that number. With 95 parade entries, it was the largest in the parade’s history; the crowds jammed the streets for hours.
“Even though there are a lot of spectators here you always run into so many people you know,” Leucadia resident Stephanie Murel said. “We end up staying way longer than the parade lasts because we have a chance to catch up with friends we don’t get to see on a regular basis. It makes it feel like a small town again.”
The 55th annual parade featured floats, marching bands and local organizations. This year’s grand marshal was Rick Shea, the city’s first Deputy Mayor.
“I am so stoked to have been selected for this honor!” he exclaimed. The now retired San Diego County school administrator splits his time between Encinitas and Hawaii.
While the parade celebrated the bridging between each of the city’s five distinct communities, its history isn’t without disagreement. In 2005, former Councilman Dan Dalager, who was then the mayor, changed the name of the parade from the Encinitas Holiday Parade to the Christmas Parade without a vote of the council.
Some non-Christian and Christian residents alike objected to the change, while others applauded the move to return Christmas to the community spotlight.
Years after the controversy, the parade name was more than an afterthought for many attendees. “I think it should be called something that everyone can relate to,” said Jared Polk, a Leucadia resident. “It’s a community event during the holidays so it should include everyone. That’s what the spirit of the season is all about.”
Pam Eldon, a Cardiff-by-the-Sea resident sat along the parade route with her husband Sam and three elementary aged children as the sun went down and the temperature dropped slightly. “The kids love the sights and sounds of the floats and the different characters that come by,” she said. “It was pretty low-key this year but I think Santa is always their favorite no matter what’s in the parade.”