ENCINITAS — After hearing a number of concerns from residents, the Encinitas City Council this week will reconsider the city’s recent decision to cancel the annual Holiday Parade for the second straight year due to concerns surrounding COVID-19.
According to the city, the decision is consistent with the California Department of Public Health’s “Beyond the Blueprint” guidelines for outdoor events. The guidelines define outdoor events with more than 10,000 individuals as “mega-events” and verification of COVID vaccination or a recent negative COVID test is “strongly recommended for all attendees.”
In the past, approximately 20,000 attendees typically attend the city’s annual holiday event, which is entering its 64th year. This year’s previously scheduled parade is entitled “Encinitas Rocks,” showcasing the city’s music, arts and culture with a variety of music performances.
According to the city, since there would not be a centralized entry point for the event, it would be difficult to verify vaccine status or a negative test.
Following some backlash from residents, the Encinitas City Council will reconsider the decision during its Wednesday meeting.
Travis Karlen, the city’s director of parks and recreation, told The Coast News that staff will be prepared to find a way to do the parade safely should the City Council decide to go that route.
“There is a staff recommendation that we take some additional protocols like mask-wearing — we’re going to encourage that,” Karlen said.”Obviously, we don’t have the people-power to enforce that but we’re going to request that our visitors do that. And all of the city staff are going to set the standard and wear a mask themselves that are working the event if the council decides to move forward with that.”
Over the weekend, the city received several emails from residents who were upset about losing the yearly tradition for a second consecutive year due to the pandemic.
Ruben Flores, a resident and former Encinitas planning commissioner, wrote to the council and city staff in strong opposition to the decision.
“The Holiday Parade is a long-standing tradition of Encinitas, bringing all segments of the community together to celebrate the season.” Flores wrote. “I strongly advise that you maintain the parade in its current route or find alternative routes in the City of Encinitas. Failing to do so, will enhance the existing lack of trust in the city management and staff.”
Cardiff resident Dave Goyner also emailed city officials expressing confusion about the return of large events, such as sporting events and concerts, but not a traditional parade.
The difference between those large-scale events and the Holiday Parade are specific entrances where attendees can provide proof of vaccination or a negative test.
“With the way that the downtown of Encinitas is set up, that would be very difficult,” Karlen said.
City officials will discuss this issue again this week and Karlen is somewhat confident the city will produce some type of version of Encinitas’ yearly holiday tradition.
“We’re confident that we can make this happen,” Karlen said. “It probably won’t be as big of a parade as years past but we’ll definitely be able to offer something to the public.”