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Santa Claus Parade committee proposes alternative pandemic format

The Fort Macleod Santa Claus Parade committee is proposing a ‘reverse’ parade for 2020 in which parade entries are stationary and people drive by in their own vehicles in keeping with pandemic protocols.

The Fort Macleod Santa Claus Parade committee isn’t willing to let a little thing like a pandemic get in the way of tradition.

The committee is proposing to hold a “reverse parade” Nov. 28 in which viewers drive by stationary entries to comply with public health orders in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“It’s not ideal, it’s not traditional, but we just don’t want to give up on having our parade,” director of community and protective services Liisa Gillingham said.

Gillingham reported to council at its Sept. 14 meeting on discussions by the parade committee on moving forward with the 39th version of the parade.

The committee is looking for an alternative to the traditional Santa Claus Parade format.

Traditionally, up to 10,000 people line Second avenue and Main Street to watch the Santa Claus Parade — something not possible due to the pandemic.

“We know that we cannot host it in the traditional way,” Gillingham said.

Gillingham was referring to public health protocols in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Those protocols include social distancing and a limit on the size of public gatherings.

“The discussion moved around several options and the one that seemed to make the most sense . . . was a reverse parade,” Gillingham said.

The reverse parade will have floats and entries park on Main Street, with people driving past in their own vehicles.

The parade entries will line north and south sides of the street on alternating blocks.

Gillingham said the reverse parade has been tried in other communities.

“It’s worked fairly well,” Gillingham said.

Gillingham told council the parade committee will inquire whether an exemption to the pandemic rules is needed from the province.

“Even though people may not be congregating on the sidewalks like they usually do it’s still going to be a gathering of people,” Gillingham said.

Foot traffic will be discouraged along the parade route, and people on the floats and entries will not be allowed to toss candy.

People would still be free to enter businesses from the sidewalk on Main Street.

Gillingham said there will be signage advising people to socially distance themselves.

Volunteer parade marshalls will direct traffic to keep the flow moving to avoid back-ups.

“It will be longer and more time-consuming,” Gillingham said. “We could be moving a few hundred vehicles.

Due to the public health protocols, the bucket brigade will not be able to collect donations to help with parade costs.

“This is also a cheaper version of the parade since most of the bands are not going to be able to participate and have said they will not,” Gillingham said. “I believe two have said they may be participating.”

The parade committee asked council for a letter of support to accompany its submission to the province for some pandemic rule exemptions.

“There would be some big logistical challenges for sure,” Mayor Brent Feyter said. “It’s a big undertaking for the committee to take on.”

Gillingham said the committee has to determine how many entries would be in the parade in order to set out a route.

“We’re really in the beginning planning stages,” Gillingham told council. “Those are the initial conversation. There’s bound to be some things that come up as we continue planning.”

Should Alberta move to Phase 3 of its relaunch, the committee would stage the parade in the traditional manner with entries moving and spectators standing along the route.

Council voted to provide a letter of support for the Santa Claus Parade’s reverse proposal.

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