Ken Ary Grand Marshal of Annual Christmas Parade
By Peggy Kelly
Santa Paula News
Published: November 16, 2012
“Christmas at Grandma’s” might include riding in a convertible for the grandchildren of Gloria and Ken Ary, a major part of Ken’s duties as Grand Marshal of the 63rd Annual Optimist Club Christmas Parade. The oldest such holiday procession in Ventura County, the Christmas Parade will be held Saturday, November 24 at 10 a.m. on East Main Street, between 7th and 11th streets.
According to Parade Coordinator Ron Merson, Ary “was selected as the Grand Marshal for all of his efforts in the community.” Ary graduated from Santa Paula High School in 1963 and later, when his own children attended SPHS Ary was president of Parents and Friends of SPHS.
Merson said Ary remains active, operating the 50/50 Drawing at SPHS home football games over the years and generating “more than $150,000 for Santa Paula athletics.... Ken is a 45-year member of the Santa Paula Church of Christ” and a volunteer for Many Meals and Meals on Wheels.
Merson said Ary also has not only been a dedicated member of the Santa Paula Lions Club for more than a decade, but also served as the organization’s president for five years. Merson, celebrating his 31st year as Christmas Parade coordinator, said of this year’s Grand Marshal: “Ken is truly an example of how one person can make a big difference in our community.”
A native Californian raised in Oklahoma, Ary said his father, a meat cutter, settled the family in Santa Paula in 1960. “I’ve been here ever since,” noted Ary. “Eleven of us, all the brothers and sisters, all graduated form Santa Paula High School.”
Ary attended Ventura College, and after he retired he attended UCSB and became a certificated drug and alcohol counselor. In between he spent almost 40 years in the retail grocery business, getting a very early start on what would become a career.
“Old-timers remember me running around as a little kid at the Bayless Market,” a now defunct store. “One week after I moved out here I started out as a cleanup boy,” and over the years at various markets Ary worked his way up to store manager.
Ary keeps very busy in his retirement: “I’m the sight coordinator for the Lions Club,” coordinating donations and program funding for the organization’s particular mission - helping those who suffer vision loss.
Perhaps his decades of grocery experience compelled Ary to volunteer for the Meals on Wheels and Many Meals programs. “I’ve been with the Church of Christ for 45 years,” said Ary, a congregation leader who oversees a weekly food giveaway at the West Santa Paula Street church.
But perhaps he’s best known for running a top fundraiser at Santa Paula High School home games: “For 25 years I’ve headed up the 50/50 drawing... most of the kids that have come through school know me as Mr. 50/50, they call my wife Mrs. 50/50. I cherish that name because the kids thought it up.”
Although all his siblings except for one returned to Oklahoma, Ary said his family “has quite a history in 50 some years” at SPHS that continues. His sons Adams and James are graduates, and his grandniece is a cheerleader.
Ary himself is a cheerleader for the city: “I’m in love with Santa Paula, have been here 52 years... I worked here for the first 20 years and always lived here. And I always took part in anything that went on in town when I could. I love the weather and love the people, there’s lot of good people here.... It takes good people to make a community and we have a lot in Santa Paula... I really appreciate over the years the cooperation of the community, all the organizations” working on behalf of Santa Paulans.
Ken and Gloria’s fraternal twin grandchildren, Zoey and her brother Dillon, just turned 10 years old and the Arys are hoping they’ll be sitting in the Grand Marshal’s convertible in the Optimist Club Christmas Parade. “I really hope they’re here to ride in the parade,” said Ary.
“I’m grateful for being chosen and humbled by being chosen in this capacity.... I thank the Optimist Club for allowing me to be in this position, I appreciate it so much, appreciate Santa Paula so much.”
Ary said that as a Christian he gives “glory to God for all in my life... I think Christianity is what makes me such a giving person, having God in my life. I appreciate everything so much, especially the community l live in too.... I’m still in awe,” added Ary, “that they’ve chosen me.”