Encinitas cancels Holiday Parade to residents’ frustration

Other community members voice support of COVID-era restriction; City Council adds agenda item to revisit action


The Encinitas city sign over Coast Highway 101 is shown decorated with holiday lights in this 2018 file image. (Photo by Ian McDonnell, iStock Getty Images)

North Coast Current

Encinitas social media chatter lit up in recent days after the city announced the cancellation of the community’s annual Holiday Parade, citing COVID-19 concerns.

The criticism among residents was not universal, however, with others supporting the cancellation.

Amid the backlash, an item was added to the Oct. 27 City Council agenda to reconsider the cancellation. Deputy Mayor Tony Kranz asked that the issue be revisited by the full council, according to a Facebook post of his that was shared online.

“I asked Mayor (Catherine) Blakespear and City Manager (Pam) Antil to reconsider the cancellation of the parade and they have added an item to our meeting agenda for this Wednesday,” Kranz said in the Facebook post on Oct. 24. “I look forward to the conversation.”

Medical. (Photo by Hush Naidoo, Unsplash)“It is the City’s decision to cancel the 2021 Encinitas Holiday Parade,” the city announced on its website Oct. 21. “The decision to cancel the parade is due to the strong recommendation from the state to verify fully vaccinated status or pre-entry negative test result for all attendees and to not use self-attestation as a mode of verification.”

In an announcement sent to parade participants that was also shared on social media, the city’s Parks, Recreation and Cultural Arts Department stated that it “will begin issuing paid registrants full refunds right away.”

The parade was canceled in 2020 during the height of the pandemic.

Beyond the Blueprint

City officials cited the state of California’s Beyond the Blueprint coronavirus guidelines for what are called mega events, which the state defines as outdoor events drawing more than 10,000 people and indoor events of more than 1,000. According to Beyond the Blueprint guidelines, outdoor events such as the parade are recommended to have COVID-19 verifications of vaccination or negative virus test results.

“For outdoor settings, it is recommended not to use self-attestation to verify status as fully vaccinated or as proof of negative test result,” the guidelines state.

City officials cited the guidelines in explaining the difficulty in formally checking vaccine and negative test statuses for parade visitors.

“Since the parade event does not have a defined access point to verify vaccination status and/or a negative test result it would not be possible to follow this recommendation by the State,” the city explained in its announcement. “Additionally, due to the nature of the event, with spectators and parade participants in close contact, implementation of any possible modifications would exceed available parade resources and greatly impact both the spectator and participant experience.”

The announced cancellation comes as Encinitas prepares for its annual Holiday Street Fair on Nov. 20 and 21 along Coast Highway 101. Although the Holiday Street Fair is often a smaller event compared with its spring season counterpart, the city’s street fairs are known for drawing thousands of visitors daily. The Encinitas Spring Street Fair draws upwards of 40,000 visitors a day, according to past reports.

Kranz said in his Facebook post that he understood City Manager Pam Antil’s decision to cancel the parade.

“Staging the parade on 2nd Street is always a little zoo-like, with residents right nearby on 3rd Street,” Kranz wrote. “Given these constraints, I understand why the City Manager and her staff came to the determination that this year’s parade would need to be cancelled.”

The decision to cancel may have been hasty, however, he indicated.

“I think there are reasonable alternatives that the city council should direct staff to explore,” Kranz said on Facebook. “For example, there’s plenty of room for people to gather if we close El Camino Real between Encinitas Boulevard and Via Montoro. The city could work with the merchants in that stretch to allow spectators to park in their lots, parade participants to queue up and people to gather in community and celebrate.”

Social media criticism

Although the city’s street fairs are organized by the 101 Encinitas Mainstreet Association, residents on social media are criticizing what they see as city leaders’ hypocrisy in canceling the Holiday Parade when a large fair is on the calendar. The Encinitas Chamber of Commerce held its annual Oktoberfest on Oct. 3 at Mountain Vista Drive and El Camino Real in New Encinitas. The community’s annual Turkey Trot 5K and 10K races are also on schedule for Nov. 25, according to the event’s website.

“Encinitas, CA cancelled the holiday parade bc (because) they could not adequately conduct vaccine verifications and ‘self attestation’ isn’t advised by the CDPH,” a Twitter user wrote. “Those rules didn’t apply to Oktoberfest, which went on as usual.”

Other residents’ feedback on social media was supportive of the cancellation given the ongoing concerns over COVID-19.

One person on a Facebook group devoted to Encinitas community issues noted that anyone who has attended the parade in the past would know how packed the crowd can be, and that the event attracts too many onlookers for a pandemic situation.

Others’ criticism on social media came in the form of political attacks on Mayor Catherine Blakespear, which included the circulation of a Dr. Seuss Grinch-style meme in her likeness.

One resident observed on another Encinitas politics Facebook page that canceling a Christmas-related event wasn’t the best look for a state Senate campaign, referring to Blakespear’s current run for the seat.

Longtime community tradition

The holiday-season parade has been an Encinitas tradition dating back decades, as covered in a 2013 North Coast Current report. Today’s incarnation of the parade has been a city-sponsored event since 1993, when the name of the event changed from the Encinitas Christmas Parade to the Encinitas Holiday Parade, according to a 2007 North County Times report.

In 2007, a community and City Council debate swirled over the renaming of the event to the more generic “holiday” title.

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(Story updated 10/26/2021 at 12:55 p.m.)

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