Organizers of an annual Baltimore Christmas parade in Hampden are hopeful the event can go on as planned after talks with the city.
Discussions started after Baltimore City’s Department of Transportation told organizers early Monday morning at the last minute to reschedule the Dec. 4 parade because there aren’t enough police officers to cover it alongside a Ravens game.
“I understand you need police but we can’t change it,” Tom Kerr, a parade organizer, said Monday, noting that the event has coincided with Ravens games in the past without issue.
On Wednesday afternoon, Sharen Kerr, Tom’s wife, also a parade organizer, said of the talks: “It’s still in the works, but I in my heart feel that we’re going to pull this off.”
The city called organizers Tuesday and Wednesday and assured that it was working diligently to find enough security for the parade and said it should have an answer by Friday, Sharen Kerr said.
That’s “still cutting it” close but “we’re hopeful,” she said.
Sharen Kerr and City Councilwoman Odette Ramos, whose District 14 includes Hampden, on Friday morning reported no developments on a decision but said they would share updates.
Picking a new date for the parade with under two weeks to go would be impossible and canceling would be costly, Tom Kerr said.
Tom Kerr, 79, has been organizing the event since its inception — except for 2020 when the coronavirus pandemic hit and everything was canceled.
The Christmas parade, which organizers said is the biggest in Maryland, has been put on through the streets of Hampden on the first Sunday in December for the past 49 years.
The timing of the notice is frustrating because everything is already in place, and the city has known about the parade since July when organizers requested a permit, Sharon Kerr said.
“The City has been in ongoing communication with the parade organizers to determine how to ensure that the parade could be held in a manner that is safe and enjoyable for all,” city spokesperson Monica Lewis said Tuesday night. “We look forward [to] continuing the dialogue and sharing more details with the public in the coming days.”
Gov. Larry Hogan’s spokesperson Michael Ricci on Wednesday tweeted that “the state stands ready to assist.”Ricci on Friday didn’t immediately respond to a message asking whether the state was stepping in to help after all.
“We’re scrambling,” Sharen Kerr said, “but I do feel that the city is doing their best now.”
Past parades have brought tens of thousands of spectators, including residents from other parts of Baltimore City and the surrounding counties, Tom Kerr said.
He has been the parade’s chairman since Mayor William Donald Schaefer asked him to organize what was first called the mayor’s Christmas parade in 1973.
Funded by Hampden and Medfield businesses, the parade features not only local high school marching school bands, but also professional bands from Virginia and Pennsylvania, big floats, balloons and groups like Philadelphia’s Mummers.
The parade is scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. at Falls Road and West Cold Spring Lane. The parade route continues south on Falls Road to West 36th Street, before heading east to Chestnut Avenue and then north to end at West 37th Street. Santa is supposed to make an appearance, along with the winning Ms. Yuletide and the three Jr. Ms. Yuletide awardees.
The Ravens-Denver Broncos game that day at M&T Bank Stadium also is scheduled to start at 1 p.m.
“All the bands have contracted with buses to bring them on that date. All the floats and the big balloons have contracted for that date and the next weekend they’re somewhere else. We send them a down payment in April,” Tom Kerr said.
The event costs $47,000 to $50,000 to execute, a budget that includes a few thousand dollars set aside to pay the city for a police detail of about 20 officers, Tom Kerr said.
“Here we’re getting something good in Baltimore, for Pete’s sake, and they hit us with this,” Tom Kerr said. “We were trying to do something nice and they kick us in the back.”
Tom Kerr had contacted Ramos for help to work out a solution with the city.
“We’ve got to work this out. This is Hampden’s gift to Baltimore,” she said. Ramos said her favorite part of the annual parade, which she plans to walk in this year, is the city’s marching bands.
“It’s such a great event and they’ve been doing it for so long,” Ramos said. “That and the lights, it’s not Christmas in Baltimore without both.”