As the Coronado Chamber of Commerce’s Holiday Parade makes its way down Orange Avenue, Friday, Dec. 6, starting at 6 p.m., it’s fun to review the history of the event which dates back to 1975. Now the parade is comprised of 52 entries and lasts an hour. In the early days, Orange Avenue wasn’t closed to traffic for the event. It turned out that people dodging traffic on a state highway wasn’t a sustainable business model for the parade and participation was sparse.
In 1980, Coronado Chamber of Commerce President Ron Beaubien along with Chamber Executive Secretary Mary Kay Forsythe set out to change that concept. Beaubien said recently during an interview held in his office at Crown Island Insurance, “Every time you do something in this town, it takes on a life of its own. The key was we always had a parade. What bothered me is nobody would be there. People couldn’t cross the streets and some of the stores wouldn’t stay open. That’s why we approached the city, which didn’t want to close Orange Avenue because of the cost. In those days City Manager Ray Silver, Police Chief Arthur LeBlanc and most of the City Councilmembers were members of the Rotary Club of Coronado, so we talked about this at Rotary. We got their blessing and went forward. Mary Kay was a member of the State Chamber of Commerce and the first staff member of the Chamber we paid. I felt we needed to have an office presence and some guidance to go forward with the Chamber. When we went to Sacramento to meet with Caltrans to temporarily close Orange Avenue, eventually we were able to get through a lot of red tape. It still took us several trips to get it done.”
Of course Caltrans was initially slow on the uptake, according to Beaubien, who laughed at the memory. “They did a feasibility study, but with the help of many people, we were able to get it resolved. The first year we didn’t see a big increase in the parade. We had the high school band, cheerleaders and the city’s big fire truck. The parade isn’t what it’s like now.”
Another feature of the Parade was businesses started staying open later and a major feature of the evening was a stop at Anderson’s Bakery. “The Anderson Brothers were the bakers for the Hotel del Coronado, and they opened a bakery where Starbucks is now,” Beaubien said. “Cheryl Anderson, who has since passed away, ran the bakery for years. Kids came in the back side of the bakery and they would decorate cookies and make gingerbread houses. Once we closed Orange Avenue, the kids could cross the street. Cheryl used to dress as Mrs. Santa Claus, and it was just delightful to go in there. And she would have some adult beverages available in the back room. The first parade Santa Claus in those days was Scott Anderson (no relation to the bakery Andersons), who was president of the Hotel del Coronado when it was owned by M. Larry Lawrence. Scott worked his way up from working at the swimming pool at the Hotel Del into hotel senior management.”
Beaubien said of the parade in subsequent years, “You could always count on someone having hot chocolate, holiday candy bags or other special treats year after year. Over the next few years, we saw friends and others developing new family traditions such as parties and gatherings after the parade, including dinners together in local restaurants with friends and community groups. Our children Layne and Brady, their childhood friends and a whole lot of kids grew up with this Open House and Parade as part of their annual family holiday celebrations. It was truly a small-town celebration showcasing Coronado business and a fun start to the Christmas season. We never imagined it would be such a major San Diego Area Holiday event. We still hope everyone is having a great time and enjoys this event as much as we all did when we started it.”
You really can’t have an article about Ron Beaubien without including his wife Vicki, their involvement in Rotary International and several Coronado-based non-profit organizations.
Ron was born in Berkeley and graduated from Walnut Creek High School where he played basketball, tennis and a little football. College stops included the University of Nevada and Long Beach State, where he earned his degree. Ron did a three-year stint in the Marines, including two tours of duty in Vietnam. Meanwhile, Vicki was born in Topeka, Kansas and moved to Coronado in her early teens. She is the daughter of teacher and former Coronado High School (CHS) Boys Basketball Head Coach and Track Coach Don Valliere. As Ron explained, “Don came to Coronado to visit and wrote back to the family, ‘We’re moving.’ That’s why the family came here in 1963.” Vicki graduated from San Diego State and then moved to Long Beach where she worked for McDonnell Douglas (now Boeing). The couple met in Long Beach and have now been married for 51 years.
They couple has two sons Layne (CHS ’94) and Brady (CHS ’97). Layne was a three-time U.S. Water Polo Olympian, competing in the Athens Olympics in 2004, Beijing in 2008 and London in 2012. Beaubien won a Silver Medal in the 2008 Olympics and was also an NCAA Champion while playing at Stanford University. Layne now runs Crown Island Insurance, having taken over the business from Ron. Both Beaubien children were born in at Sharp Coronado Hospital, and earned master’s degrees at Stanford. Brady and his wife Emmy have a nine-week-old child and the couple lives in Culver City. Brady is the Co-Founder of CineConcerts, which provides a full orchestra musical experience combined with motion pictures. One of the concerts included the movie “Gladiator” with the Rome Symphony Orchestra, staged in the Coliseum, which raised $500,000 for Rotary International’s cause of eradicating polio world-wide. CineConcerts has engaged over two million people in 48 countries in their concert presentations.
Ron Beaubien has made numerous stops in the hierarchy of Rotary, where he has been a member since 1976 when he was sponsored for membership by Ben Clark and Howard Mason. Stops include being President of the Coronado Club, Rotary District 5340 Governor, Rotary International Director from 2003-05 and most recently Ron and Vicki served as aides to Rotary International President John F. Germ for a three-year assignment. Beaubien has been either a member on or chairman of almost every Rotary committee at the international level. One of his personal highlights was being the first Rotary International Director from the San Diego area.
Rotary’s campaign to eradicate polio is significant humanitarian project as Beaubien explained. “The only countries remaining with polio are ones in conflict, Afghanistan and Pakistan. The latest number of cases are 91 in Pakistan and 21 in Afghanistan. Another problem country was Nigeria, and we haven’t had a case of polio in Nigeria since August 2016.We still have some pockets of the disease and it will always be prevalent because it is a virus. With the assistance of the Center for Disease Control and the World Health Organization, when polio is found, no matter where the child is located, they can determine what village they are in and what the virus strain is. They go in with their medical team, surround it, and do the drops that eliminates the virus. The greatest help in the whole project has been the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Rotary, with matching funds from the Gates Foundation has contributed over $1.9 billion to fight polio. And with Rotary’s ‘Boots on the Ground’ assistance in administering the polio vaccine, it adds up to several million volunteer hours contributed to the eradication effort.”
Vicki and Ron have been heavily involved in the start-up of both the Coronado Schools Foundation, where Vicki served as president, and the Coronado All-Sports Booster Club, the predecessor to the Islander Sports Foundation. Ron was Chairman of the Coronado Chamber of Commerce in 1980 and 1981, and both were involved in the Coronado Water Polo Club. Ron was President of the Coronado Hospital Foundation in its formative years and the couple were also key players in raising the $1.2 million endowment that led to the construction of the Brian Bent Memorial Aquatics Complex on the Coronado High School campus. Ron and Vicki are past recipients of the Coronado Distinguished Citizen Award presented by the Coronado Chamber of Commerce.
In large part due to Beaubien’s foresight, there is a full evening of holiday-related activities Dec. 6. Carols will be sung at Rotary Plaza from 5 to 6 p.m. and Santa’s arrival via fire truck will come toward the end of that time frame. The 44th Annual Holiday Parade will start at 6 p.m. and last until 7 p.m. One lucky family will assist Mayor Richard Bailey with the lighting of the Star Pine at 7 p.m. Many Coronado stores will remain open for shopping opportunities. All-in-all, it’s a great way to start the Holiday Season.