North Park residents and businesses have joined forces to save a beloved holiday parade after it was abruptly canceled by organizers this week.
The annual North Park Toyland Parade will go on – as planned – this Saturday, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., along University Avenue, between Utah and Iowa streets.
North Park Main Street, an organization that supports arts, culture, entertainment and small businesses in North Park, told NBC 7 Wednesday that the organizer of the annual holiday parade, Victoria House Corporation, ran out of funds and canceled the event Tuesday.
With just a few days until the big parade, North Park Main Street knew something had to be done to save the holiday tradition. The organization put out a call to local businesses and volunteers, and the community banded together.
North Park Main Street held a meeting Wednesday morning at Urban Solace restaurant to figure out the logistics and organize volunteers who will be helping with the parade route and other responsibilities.
The group is also in the process of getting the word out to parade participants to let them know the parade is back on. The parade typically features local marching bands, dance groups, vintage cars and city officials, as well as an appearance by Santa Claus riding atop a red fire engine.
Angela Landsberg, executive director of North Park Main Street, said those participants can reach out to her via email at firstname.lastname@example.org to get the most current details.
"We want them to show up at the same time as they were told to show up in the first place. The show will go on," Landsberg said. "We'll try to make this as seamless as possible."
Earlier this year, on the Toyland Parade website, the Victoria House Corporation announced that the festival that usually follows the parade would be canceled, but the procession would still take place.
A visit to the parade website Wednesday was met with this message against a bright green backdrop: “Dear North Park: The 2018 North Park Toyland Parade has been canceled. The Parade will resume next year, Saturday, December 7th, 2019.”
NBC 7 reached out to the Victoria House Corporation Wednesday to ask why the parade had been canceled and a representative said she had no comment on the matter.
When asked what would happen to the entry fees that participants paid to be part of the parade, the woman again said the organization had no comment. Entry fees for this year ranged from $25 to $150, depending on the group participating in the parade, from schools and community organizations to local businesses or national corporations. The fee form states, “donation fees are non-refundable.”
The Toyland Parade is attended by thousands of locals. Parking is available for only $1 that day at the North Park Parking Garage on 29th Street, or attendees can take the 2 bus line that runs along 30th Street to get to the event.
The Toyland Parade has seen many incarnations over the decades, even dating as far back as 1936. The event was canceled for more than 20 years between the late 1960s and late 1980s but ultimately returned to the community. In 2007, the parade was canceled due to rain.
This year's parade is particularly exciting for the children at Jefferson Elementary School who will display a float they've been working on for the past six weeks. The kids started an after-school club at their school to build floats and make costumes for the community parade and they're eager to present their masterpieces.
Andy Hinds, a parent and the president of the school foundation at Jefferson Elementary, said he didn't want to think of the disappointment on the kids' faces had the parade been canceled. They've been looking forward to marching for weeks.
Landsberg said community involvement like this is why North Park Main Street had to step in and save the parade.
"It's a big part of the community. The kids in the community make floats, the firemen come out. We have people from all over San Diego bring their low-riders, we've got bands from high schools that prepare all year long to be in these parades," said Landsberg. "It's a tradition."
Landsberg said her organization also has the support of San Diego City Councilman Chris Ward and Mayor Kevin Faulconer's office.
"A lot of volunteers in this community don't want the parade to go away."