By Chris Stone and Ken Stone
Despite confusion over its fate, the 55th annual North Park Toyland Parade took place Saturday morning, attracting a reported 7,000 spectators.
Dodging the rain bullet, it proceeded east on University Avenue under cool, partly cloudy skies.
But residents who relied on social media or the official website were led to think the parade had been canceled.
Those who ignored “tow-away” signs scrambled to recover their vehicles.
Kelly Murphy of Utah Street said she heard noise outside her unit Saturday morning and thought it was a garbage truck. Going out to look, she saw tow trucks removing vehicles from Utah between University and Lincoln avenues.
She said she noticed on the parade site Friday night that the event was still canceled.
So she didn’t move her car from what became the parade’s staging area.
At 6:50 a.m., her car was gone. She said she saw “tow truck after tow truck after tow truck” taking away three cars at a time and that several dozen were removed.
She was told to check with Western Towing.
That company declined to give information. A San Diego Police Department sergeant said officers ordered no cars towed, instead suggesting removals were at the behest of city code enforcement agents — whose office was closed Saturday and unavailable for comment.
On Tuesday, police spokesman Lt. Brent Williams said 10 cars were impounded before the parade, including eight in the staging area.
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Though perturbed about having to get her car back, Murphy said: “It’s nice to see the neighborhood get together and celebrate.”
A traffic control officer at the event told Times of San Diego that tow signs are always put up 36 to 48 hours ahead of time. But Murphy insists they were put up the night before.
Still, the officer said: “If you see tow-away signs, would you park there?”
Agreeing was Angela Landbserg, executive director of parade rescuer North Park Main Street, who said: “You should never ignore street signs. You should obey signs posted by the police rather than listen to a website.”Landsberg said that late Monday the former parade organizer, Victoria House Corp. (in charge the past five years), “withdrew its permit” for the parade because it “ran out of resources.”
(Even late Saturday night, the Victoria House parade site declared: “Dear North Park, The 2018 North Park Toyland Parade has been Cancelled. The parade will resume next year, Saturday, Dec. 7th, 2019.” In small print at the bottom of the homepage: “Only the Festival is cancelled this year, which normally happens after the Parade.”)
Wednesday morning, Landsberg’s business group met and “decided to pick up the parade,” which included getting a new permit.
A GoFundMe page — Toyland Parade Lives — aimed to raise $3,000. Landsberg said $10,000 is needed to recoup this year’s parade expenses.
Why was the website notice of cancellation not updated?
Victoria House organizers didn’t respond to email or voice mail requests for comment.
Landbserg said only: “They were not cooperating with us.”Some spectators said they hadn’t realized the parade was briefly canceled.
Hilarey Findeisen said she had heard that the parade was off — “It’s a big thing to cancel” — and was surprised it was quickly revived.
Travis Dennis of Hillcrest, a first-time parade-goer, said he had not even heard of the parade until he saw news that it was canceled and then restored.
A woman named Melanie, who declined to give her last name, watched her daughter walk with the San Diego Creative Arts Project unit.
She had been given event details but looked at the website and saw the parade had been canceled, she said. So she called the Arts Project and officials said it had been reinstated.
“It was very confusing,” Melanie said.
Landsberg said attendance this year was better than previous, claiming 7,000 spectators along the 10-block University Avenue route.
Among the units were local Boy and Girl Scouts, the San Diego police and fire departments, dance groups, school bands, and politicians including state Senate Pro Tem Toni Atkins, Councilman Chris Ward, Assemblyman Todd Gloria and county Treasurer-Tax Collector Dan McAllister.
Surf dogs scampered down the street — one riding a skateboard, pushed by an owner.
Santa Claus rode a firetruck to end the parade.
On Facebook’s North Park group page, Andy Hinds wrote: “It WAS better this year! I think all the publicity about the cancelled/uncancelled drama reminded people how fun it could be!”
Replied Landsberg: “Let’s cancel the parade every year!!”
Updated at 12:45 p.m. Dec. 4, 2018
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