Encinitas parade grand marshal known for lending a hand
Resident Doug Long is a familiar face to anyone who needs a helping hand — that’s the reason he was chosen as the grand marshal of the recent Encinitas Holiday Parade.
From 1957 to 1963, Long marched in the parade as a boy scout and as part of the Oak Crest Elementary band, and he later drove floats holding prior grand marshals. But Long never expected to lead the parade, calling it a “huge honor” the day before the event.
He was especially surprised since he is on the volunteer committee that’s tasked with choosing a grand marshal. The committee selected Long without him knowing.
“I try to nominate people who have been here a long time, contributed to the community and who might not have the opportunity in the future to do that,” Long said. “Then all the sudden that’s me. What’s up with that? I was surprised and humbled.”
Barbara Grice, executive director of the San Dieguito Heritage Museum, said Long always helps out when needed. She recalled how he rushed over in the middle of the day to fix a leaky pipe at the museum. Many other organizations have benefited from his service, she added.
For instance, Grice has watched Long tirelessly work to ready the new Encinitas Community Garden, located across from the museum on Quail Gardens Drive.
“When I was arriving in the morning and leaving the museum in the afternoon, I would see him out there,” she said. Grice added she’s not sure how he finds the time to volunteer so often, considering that he owns and operates Bert’s Plumbing.
Long acknowledged it can be a juggling act. He credited his parents with imbuing him with a passion for serving the community.
“I’m just kind of carrying on the tradition,” Long said. He later added that his two kids, Christi and Brian, are doing the same.
His mom was president of the Ocean Knoll Elementary Parent Teacher Association. Long’s dad was involved in quite a few volunteer projects, including creating the first playground at San Dieguito Park, on the border of Del Mar and Solana Beach. One of Long’s early memories is helping paint a picket fence at the spot.
Originally, the nominating committee selected pro surfer Rob Machado as grand marshal, but his schedule was up in the air, according to Nick Buck, recreation supervisor with the Parks and Recreation Department. The committee then rallied around Long, and even Machado was on board.
“Machado said, ‘Oh for sure, that guy’s epic. You gotta go with him, hands down,’” Buck wrote in an email.
Buck added that he and the nominating committee always knew Long would be grand marshal one day. It just so happened to work out this year.
Long, 65, moved with his family to Solana Beach in 1952 and Cardiff two years later (the family’s house later became the popular restaurant Besta-Wan.) He currently lives with his wife Karen in New Encinitas.
His volunteer highlight reel includes organizing and designing a play structure at Ocean Knoll Elementary, helping build a girls’ softball field on Lake Drive and playing a role in starting the La Costa 35 Athletic Club’s Swing with Your Heart charity softball event.
Not to mention, he’s on the Encinitas Parks and Recreation commission and has served in other leadership roles.
Long has received a number of accolades, including the Encinitas 101 Mainstreet Association in 2012 naming him Volunteer of the Decade.
Of the projects he has contributed to, Long is particularly proud of the Encinitas Community Garden, which opened in October after years of being held up by permitting delays. An organic gardening enthusiast, Long said he has enjoyed sharing this hobby with others.
Gordon Smith, president of the nonprofit Encinitas Community Garden, said Long led the volunteer-construction effort. That included building features like the garden’s planter boxes.
“He’s amazing — every community needs someone like him,” Smith said.
The day before the parade, Long said that being in the spotlight isn’t necessarily his thing, nor are parade waves. But he looked forward to catching up with friends he hadn’t seen in a while.
Long said he’s happy to take the lead on projects — or just lend a hand.
“You do whatever is needed,” Long said.