For the past ten years, La Jolla resident Howard Singer has been trying to bring a change to the town’s annual “Christmas Parade.” He doesn’t like the name.
Singer spoke out again on August 14, at a meeting of the La Jolla Town Council. But he was there to speak to one person, Ann Kerr Bache, the longtime parade chairperson and a director on the council.
Singer is a board member of the San Diego County Diversity and Inclusiveness Group, and he says they want the name of the parade changed to be “faith neutral.”
He pointed out that every holiday celebration in San Diego County — from Balboa Park’s formerly named “Christmas on the Prado,” to Chula Vista, Encinitas, Ocean Beach, and Pacific Beach’s Christmas parades — has had its name changed to be faith neutral. He claims that sponsorships and attendance go up when they do change.
“If you were a Buddhist, a Jew, or a Muslim, you would not feel welcomed,” he said.
He said at the town-council meeting that Kerr Bache and her parade committee “continues to embrace La Jolla's dark and murky past” by being unwilling to discuss the matter.
The “past” Singer alluded to is from about 1887 until around 1959, when UCSD was established: African Americans, foreign nationals, and Jews were prevented from owning property (as was the case in several of SoCal’s affluent communities in the early to mid 20th Century.)
Singer has the backing for a name change from the La Jolla Light newspaper, La Jolla Village Merchants Association, and the San Diego Human Relations Commission, among others.
However, Kerr Bache and her parade organization may be on the right path. On August 17, I spoke with ten La Jollans at the Coffee Cup restaurant on Wall Street and at the Girard Avenue farmers’ market. Each of the ten had strong opinions that were the opposite of Singer’s.
Scott was dining with his family and supported keeping the “Christmas” in the parade’s name. He said, “Who cares? I’m Jewish and I could care less. Stay away [from the parade] if you want.”
“There are so many other things to fight about. Why this?” Betsy questioned. Scott added, “Some people just get too bothered over it. Maybe they need a hobby.”
Dee, at the farmers’ market, said, “It’s okay to celebrate Christmas. If people are offended, they shouldn’t come.”
Another woman chased me down at the farmers' market when she found out what I was asking everyone about. She grabbed my arm and with a thick Eastern European accent, declared, “It is absolutely Christmas. Nothing else. Only Christmas!”
As Singer and others in the community advised me, Kerr Bache does not respond to any queries about the parade-name issue. I tried to reach her for several days. “She refuses to meet with anyone on the issue, then pretends to represent the community,” said Singer.
Plans are already underway for the 57th annual “La Jolla Christmas Parade and Holiday Festival,” scheduled for Sunday, December 7.