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Santa greets local children before the Encinitas Holiday Parade in 2018. Courtesy photo
Santa greets local children before the Encinitas Holiday Parade in 2018. Courtesy photo
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Encinitas Holiday Parade to kick off this weekend

ENCINITAS — The Encinitas Holiday Parade, a holiday tradition for countless families for more than 60 years, is set to kick off this weekend. 

The Encinitas Holiday Parade, presented by Ting Internet, will be held from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. on Dec. 3, with participants heading south on Coast Highway 101 from D Street to J Street. The parade is preceded by a tree lighting ceremony at 5 p.m. at the Lumberyard Shops courtyard between H and I streets along Coast Highway 101.

This year’s parade theme is “Classic Encinitas,” a nod to the city’s history through cars, fashion and music, along with showcasing local legends, lore and traditions. 

Looking back at ‘Classic Encinitas’

Started in 1957, the holiday parade was originally called “Saint Nicks Parade” and was held on 3rd Street. 

In the early days, the parade didn’t garner huge crowds like today and was discontinued until 1985. After four years, the parade was discontinued again. In 1991, the Encinitas Chamber of Commerce requested funding for the parade and started planning it as an annual event.

Two years later, the Encinitas Christmas Parade was in full swing, and has been an annual event ever since (In 2020, the parade was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic). Over the past several years, Nick Buck, the city’s special events and projects supervisor, has coordinated the Encinitas Holiday Parade with the help of countless volunteers and city staff.  

Warren Raps, a longtime Encinitas resident, will serve as grand marshal of this year’s Encinitas Holiday Parade. Raps replaces the late Earl Flores, known to audiences as Earl the Catholic Cowboy, who served as grand marshal last year. Flores passed away in February

The late Earl Flores, known as Earl the Catholic Cowboy, performs at the Encinitas Holiday Parade. Courtesy photo
The late Earl Flores, known as Earl the Catholic Cowboy, performs at the Encinitas Holiday Parade. Flores served as the parade’s grand marshal last year.  Courtesy photo

Raps moved to Encinitas from upstate New York in 1955. After graduating San Dieguito High, he went on to work at the local water district. Over the years, Raps has worked with local Little League baseball teams, assisted the local Boy Scout troops, joined the “Optimist Club” and volunteered at the San Dieguito Heritage Museum for over 30 years. In his free time, Raps enjoys restoring vintage cars.

Carolyn Cope, president of the Encinitas Historical Society, described the holiday parade when she was growing up in Encinitas.

I attended all of the Christmas parades,” Cope said. “As a Brownie, I was thrilled to be able to walk with my Girl Scout troop. This was when it was held on 2nd Street. There was the high school band, decorated bicycles, dolled-up horses, businesses and local folks in high places. The difference now compared to the first parades is that now it is held at night.”

While the event has undergone some changes, Cope said the spirit of the parade has never changed.

“This parade means everything to all of us locals as it relates to a state of being, living where your roots began,” Cope said. “The holiday season is so important to so many people, it deserves a parade! It was and still is such a feel good hometown parade with hometown people.”

Shuttle buses will take spectators to and from the parade every 2 minutes starting at 4 p.m. from two locations: Ecke Sports Park/YMCA and San Dieguito Academy High School, in the parking lot at corner of Melba and Nardo roads. ADA accessible buses run from the San Dieguito Academy location. Shuttles will drop visitors at the NCTD bus station on Vulcan Avenue, just a half block from the parade route.

Additional sponsors of the Encinitas Holiday Parade include Cox CommunicationsAMR and EDCO.

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