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Council cancels Fort Macleod Santa Claus parade

The Fort Macleod Santa Claus Parade did not survive the COVID-19 pandemic.

Town council made the decision to cancel the 39th annual version of the parade set for Saturday, Nov. 28 following a discussion at a committee of the whole meeting.

“It became clear that in the best interest and safety of our residents that the parade should be cancelled,” explained Liisa Gillingham, community and protective services director for the Town of Fort Macleod. “This was not an easy decision.”

Although council made the decision Nov. 17 it was not officially ratified until Monday’s regular council meeting at the G.R. Davis Administration Building.

Council’s decision also included events scheduled for Friday, Nov. 27 including lighting of the community Christmas tree and bonfires on Main Street.

The Empress Theatre Society last week cancelled its plans to host video visits with Santa on Friday.

Fort Macleod businesses are going ahead with planned late-night shopping on Friday, with pandemic precautions to be in place. 

Gillingham said council did not take the decision lightly given the long and storied history of the parade and the popularity of the Friday night events.

Even the “reverse” style of the parade — with people driving by parked entries in their own vehicles — could not guarantee the public’s safety.

“In these challenging and difficult times it is our belief that the town should not be condoning or encouraging large gatherings and promoting areas to congregate, and this decision albeit disappointing, was necessary,” Gillingham added.

The decision comes at a time when Alberta is experiencing daily record highs of new COVID-19 cases.

On Friday, the province reported 1,155 new cases, bringing to 10,655 the number of active cases in Alberta.

Santa Claus Parade co-ordinator Ashley Nelson announced the cancellation on Wednesday following a committee meeting.

“After all the cancelled events and activities we have endured this year, I had high hopes that we were going to be able to pull this off and provide some normalcy to our community,” Nelson said in a news release.

Nelson said the committee had worked hard to be innovative in its approach to staging a parade during the pandemic.

Months of planning were set to culminate this weekend to bring needed Christmas cheer to Frot Macleod.

Nelson noted Fort Macleod has nine active cases of COVID-19 — the highest level during the pandemic.

The province has also enacted stricter measures regarding gatherings and social events.

“We can’t in good conscience risk the spread of the infection and safety of our community,” Nelson added.

One of the pandemic measures taken for the parade was preparation of goodie bags to be handed out at the end of the route to the first 2,000 children.

Those goodie bags will now be distributed to children in schools in Fort Macleod and district.

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