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Westminster council cancels reverse holiday parade

Westminster has reversed its decision to hold a “reverse” holiday parade.

The Westminster Common Council voted, 3-2, Monday night to cancel the parade, which had been tentatively scheduled to replace the city’s annual Miracle on Main Street Electric Holiday Parade.

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Abby Gruber, director of the city’s recreation and parks department, asked council members during a virtual meeting for direction after seeing low interest and entries in the event.

Instead of a typical parade with spectators packed together, lining the street as floats pass by, the idea of the reverse parade was to allow spectators to drive past stationary parade entries.

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The event was scheduled for Nov. 28 but there were only 22 entries for floats and displays when staff expected 50 or more, Gruber said. Staff would have to spend time, resources and around $3,000 to pick up the slack.

She said Facebook interest in the event is low with 342 users clicking they were interested and 64 users who clicked they were going. The “build-your-own scarecrow” drive-thru event to pick up supplies in September had 714 interested with 89 people who said they would go, Gruber said. The event was sold out and 200 kits were picked up.

Gruber said the drive-thru “Spooky Saturday” event had 2,008 people interested with 300 people saying they would go via Facebook. Thousands of participants showed, she said, and people were turned away.

The director also noted the recent increase in COVID-19 cases in Carroll Carroll and pointed out that Gov. Hogan had scheduled a news conference for the following day regarding guidelines on how to combat the coronavirus.

“If greater restrictions are put in place … it’s predicted we’ll lose over half of the 22 entries that we have,” she said Monday night. She said it would be “heartbreaking” if they went through with the event and restrictions from the governor, like social distancing and a travel advisory, caused them to cancel the event anyway.

With 10 more working days left, Gruber said “we do have to make a decision this week.”

“It sounds to me like you’re leaning toward a recommendation of not going forward with the event,” Council President Gregory Pecoraro said.

Council Member Tony Chiavacci said he thought it would be attended by hundreds of people, despite what Facebook said, and would be a “huge success.”

Mayor Joe Dominick suggested to “err on the side of caution” and noted how Gruber rarely, if ever, suggests canceling anything.

Council members Chiavacci and Kevin Dayhoff voted against canceling the reverse holiday parade, while Pecoraro, Ann Gilbert and Ben Yingling voted to cancel.

The Miracle on Main Street Electric Holiday Parade was canceled at the mayor and council’s July 27 meeting, when all events in their traditional forms were axed for the rest of the year due to COVID-19 with the caveat that the city would try to find safe ways to hold alternative events. Dominick said at the time: “I don’t see us having any [events] for the rest of the year, and I think it’s smart that we just admit that to ourselves so that we can focus or time, energy and resources on other things.”

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