ENCINITAS — Encinitas is a city that celebrates active lifestyles and encourages alternative transportation and that will be on full display Saturday for its 62nd annual holiday parade.
The theme for this year’s parade is “Encinitas on the Move,” which gives a nod to the city’s appreciation of bikes, boards and all modes of getting around in fun ways.
“It really has a lot to do with how much the city has accomplished and how much is going on in Encinitas in terms of mobility and just enjoying these ways of getting around,” said Nick Buck, the city’s special events and projects supervisor.
Buck said a big part of that has to do with the opening this year of the Encinitas segment of the Coastal Rail Trail, a planned continuous bike route that runs approximately 44 miles between Oceanside and Santa Fe Depot in Downtown San Diego.
“The opening of that rail trail this year really opened a lot of people’s eyes to just how enjoyable it is to cover ground and get across town on a bike, on skates, on skateboards, scooters, whatever it is,” he said.
The parade, presented by California Coast Credit Union, kicks off at 5:30 p.m. and runs for about two hours. Nearly 100 parade entries will cruise past thousands of onlookers along the closed-down Coast Highway.
They’ll include floats, cars, marching bands from the local schools and other musical performances.
The entries will be judged and awards will be given in a variety of categories, including best use of theme, best use of lights, best spirit, most unusual, best children’s group, best performance, best marching band and best overall.
“We think that our parade entries will go big and try to come up with some things that are visually very exciting and interesting to look at,” Buck said. “It should be a good show.”
He said that Nixon, a local watch store, will be bringing back a 35-foot skateboard that’s been featured in previous parades but hasn’t made an appearance for the last five years.
This year’s Grand Marshals are Charlie and Shelly Sougias, a fourth-generation Encinitas family. They owned Charlie’s Foreign Car Service in Encinitas for over 40 years, which their son Niko and his wife Christine took over in 2016. The couple expanded it to include Charlie’s Electric Bikes.
“It kind of tied in with the theme nicely because the family has been keeping Encinitas on the move for the last 40 years at their automotive shop,” Buck said, adding that the addition of the e-bike shop “speaks really well to the trend and the interest in pushing alternative transportation.”
Buck said the parade route runs for about a half-mile from D Street to J Street and Santa always closes it out. He said in keeping with the theme, “Santa and Mrs. Clause are going to be on cool bikes at the end of the parade route.”
There will be a tree lighting ceremony before the parade starts, with a brief appearance by Santa, at 5 p.m. at the Lumberyard, near Starbucks coffee.
There will be free parking shuttles that run every 20 minutes from 4 until 8:30 p.m. They’ll run from San Dieguito Academy High School at the parking lot located on the corner of Melba Road and Nardo Road, and from the YMCA/Ecke Sports Park parking lot on Saxony Road. They’ll drop riders off at the NCTD bus station on Vulcan Avenue, a half block from the parade route.
Buck said the tradition and the hometown aspect of the parade is what makes it so popular.
“It’s such a hometown event and where other parades might get excited about some D-list celebrity, it’s more important to someone watching the Encinitas parade to see their friend or neighbor in the parade, that’s what makes it special,” he said. “That’s why everyone turns out and why people really love this thing.”