The 65th annual La Jolla Christmas Parade & Holiday Festival titled “Spirit of La Jolla – Celebrating Hometown Heroes,” will take place Sunday, Dec. 5 from 11:30 a.m.-4 p.m.
This year’s special guest is astronaut Jessica Meir who earned a Ph.D. in marine biology from Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Meir did research on the diving physiology of emperor penguins and northern elephant seals performing fieldwork on McMurdo Sound in Antarctica. It was there where she studied the diving abilities of penguins while scuba diving alongside them under the ice.
In April 2019, NASA announced that Meir had been assigned to the crew of International Space Station Expedition 61/62 as a flight engineer. On April 17, 2020, Meir returned to Earth aboard Soyuz MS-15 wrapping up a 205-day spaceflight.
Meir will be the space marshal and will attend the event’s holiday festival.
Organizers said this year’s parade theme reflects “the past difficult year with COVID and honors those groups and individuals who have helped the community.”
Ann Kerr Bache, president of the La Jolla Christmas Parade and Holiday Festival Foundation, noted 2021’s holiday extravaganza has been more difficult and costly to organize due to COVID restrictions and fewer available volunteers.
Of parade changes this year, Kerr Bache said: “We will have electronic check-in and everyone will be notified by email on the Tuesday before the parade. Each parade entry will get its category and a lineup number to help streamline the process. Every year we honor the menorah and Jewish traditions, and this year we’ll have a special educational exhibit on the Festival of Lights at the Holiday Festival along with some other entertainment. Ron Jones will be the MC of the holiday festival, which will be visited by Santa Claus and the space marshal.”
Parade honorees will include the Salvation Army and Father Joe’s Villages represented by Colonel Lescanso and deacon Jim Vargas, respectively. They will both be parade grand marshals in recognition of their organization’s contributions to La Jolla, San Diego, and the nation.
Honorary parade marshals are La Jolla Rotary represented by president Cindy Goodman (philanthropic), Cindy Kodama-Benítez (civic), astronaut and SIO graduate Jessica Meir (space), and Mt. Soledad Veterans Memorial Association (military). The Hometown Heroes recognized recently by the La Jolla Town Council will be riding with the council with a special banner.
The parade starts out with an amazing flyover, courtesy of the Antique Aircraft Museum and Bill Allen who created the tradition 40 years ago. Dozens of floats, bands, marching units, equestrians, and vintage vehicles, including Parade of Parade, fire engines, and beauty queens, will travel the parade route.
The Holiday Festival includes entertainment and photos with Santa before the parade. ‘What’s Up in Space’ with astronaut Meir is an opportunity to learn about experiences and programs in space exploration at the festival, which will include all holiday traditions.
This event is funded by community donations and grants from foundations, businesses, and residents and are still needed. “We hope to raise enough funds to restore our tradition of providing modest stipends to the bands who come and through their music make the parade a wonderful hometown event,” said Kerr Bache.
She added the event “is made possible by the Christmas Parade and Holiday Festival Committee who dedicate countless volunteer hours to making each Christmas Parade and Holiday Festival the best ever. The parade and festival would not be possible without our two ‘Special Hometown Heroes,’ Jack McGrory and Bill Kellogg, parade co-chairs, who have ‘saved the parade’ and raised the funds to support the La Jolla Christmas Parade and Holiday Festival Foundation.”
For more information, visit ljparade.com.