By VINCE MEEHAN | Uptown News
The North Park Toyland Parade has been a community tradition for more than 50 years. But this Christmastime event almost didn’t happen last year until North Park Main Street (NPMS) – which services the business improvement district (BID) of North Park – stepped up to ensure that the tradition lived on.
“North Park saved Christmas!” declared Angela Landsberg, who serves as the executive director of NPMS. “There was a last-minute phone call that the organization [that] had formerly run this, was not able to continue on with their operations. And so we were asked by the city if we would take it over for the year and we stepped right in and started contacting as many people as we could. And the community really stepped up!”
A typical parade is planned year-round with the planning ramped up in the last two months. NPMS had one week to pull off the parade from scratch and the result was one of the best Toyland parades to date. This year, NPMS will once again host the parade, but this time it has the luxury of a decent cushion of time to plan the event.
“The Lions Club has come in this year with a very generous sponsorship and the reason that this parade is able to continue this year is because of the Lions Club,” Landsberg said. “The reason they are sponsoring this parade is because they love the community and they are also actively searching for new members who want to help support North Park.”
There is also a GoFundMe page to help raise funds for expenses that include the infrastructure and security required for a parade. The link for it can be found on the NPMS website and the community is encouraged to log in to help support the parade.
“We’re hoping to have over 100 entries. We’ve got some great car clubs this year, we’ve got dancers, we’ve got singers and we’re hoping that it’s going to be a fantastic event for the community like it has been for the past 56 years,” Landsberg said. “Our grand marshall is Troy Johnson of San Diego Magazine — he is a food writer who really loves North Park and is going to be there to celebrate with us that day. We’re going to have elected officials once again, Toni Atkins, Chris Ward, Nathan Fletcher, and we’ve got our local elementary schools that are also going to be a part of it this year.
“The parade route will be streamlined this year to be exclusively on University Avenue, and a mini festival will be added after the event. The route is going to start on University and Utah and head east to Herman; people are encouraged to bring chairs – to sit up along the route – we’re really hoping that people will stay around afterwards and do some holiday shopping and dine at our restaurants. We’ve got a Christmas tree lot that’s going to be behind the North Park Theater [The Observatory North Park] so people can come by that day and buy their Christmas tree if they want. There will also be specials for people who attended the parade. All of the restaurants and shops will be pulling specials for the day.”
This event will serve as an opportunity for residents to support their local businesses and pump money back into the community. A separate music-based event called “North Park Live” will take place on Saturday, Nov. 30, that will also help promote the parade. The idea is to make this year’s parade the most successful to date. Residents are encouraged to participate in the parade as well.
“We’re looking for volunteers; we’re hoping that people will come and help us that have parade experience, but if you don’t have parade experience and you want to learn about it, we’d be happy to talk to you. They can contact our office by email or phone,” Landsberg added. “But we’re really looking for entries, so if anyone is interested in being in the parade, that’s what we need more than anything right now. And it doesn’t have to be a giant float, it can be you and 10 of your coworkers wearing T-shirts and carrying brooms if you are a housecleaning company; or margarita shakers if you’re bartenders and you wanna all do it together; if you’re a day care center and you want to pull a bunch of kids in wagons, we’d like that. We want it to be as authentic and hometown as possible.”
To participate in the parade, go to NorthParkMainStreet.com and click on the events tab. Under Toyland Parade, you can access a sign-up form.
— Vince Meehan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.