Despite appreciation for the effort behind the idea, Salmon Arm Council nixed plans for a Saint Nick parade in the city.
“What mayor would vote against a Santa Claus parade? A grinch,” said Mayor Alan Harrison, referring to his difficult position before voting against the parade. He was joined by all but one of the city councillors present.
“It’s very difficult to oppose something like this.”
All except Coun. Louise Wallace Richmond voted no to plans outlined by Phil Wright and Jan Durocher of the Salmon Arm and Shuswap Lake Agricultural Association. (Coun. Sylvia Lindgren is on leave.) The association operates the 123-year-old Salmon Arm Fair, which was cancelled this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Prior to the vote, Wright told council’s Oct. 13 meeting that going ahead with the initiative was a bit like farm life.
“Do I cut the hay today, knowing what’s going to be coming down the road, or get it inside before it rains and let it dry. If you don’t do anything, you’re a bit damned as well.”
He said the association wanted to do something for the community “because people were saying, ‘the children’s festival is lost, Roots and Blues is lost, the fair is lost, we need something to get together.’”
Durocher outlined plans for the parade,which would be about 1.4 blocks shorter than the fair parade and would remain on the south side of the highway. It was scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 5 from 3 to 5 p.m.
“The route is basically cookie-cutter made for a COVID event because it allows large areas of multi attendance – specifically you can car park and view without getting out of your car.”
She said people could also view from their yards as there are houses, apartments and seniors homes along the route as well as wide open spaces for pedestrian traffic.
Durocher added that there are people on board for marshalling, plus barricades used for the fair would help.
The Sicamous Santa Claus Parade is being held on the same day, she said, so the problem Sicamous had on Canada Day with many people from Salmon Arm attending that parade would be alleviated. Like Sicamous, a maximum of 50 floats would be permitted.
Coun. Kevin Flynn said he is excited and supports the event in principle, but is struggling with how COVID-19 guidelines could be monitored and enforced. City staff said the city has the authority to block off streets, but doesn’t monitor for health guidlines – that’s the organizers’ responsibility.
Lavery said he was confident the association could do it and, hearing that the Mall at Piccadilly would work in collaboration, he said he’d support it.
Mayor Alan Harrison asked how many people were expected, and Durocher said it is hard to say because of the wide open fields and the ability for vehicles to hold anywhere from five to seven people.
Harrison said this plan makes him very nervous.
“I think with 50 floats, you’re going to have a thousand people there, which would be hugely successful, but during COVID times, I can’t authorize 1,000 people. That’s what I think is going to happen. And it sounds like you’ve done a lot of due diligence and have thought about everything you can think of. But if a thousand people show up, there’s no way we’re going to be able to separate them… Can you convince me otherwise?”
Durocher said 1,000 people would be spread over a large area and there would be no point of convergence.
“We’re not asking them to come to a main stage, we’re not asking them to be seated in one area…”
Harrison asked how it would be different from the usual fall fair parade.
Durocher said people understand physical distancing now and would comply.
Harrison noted that the antique car shows haven’t gone, the Holiday Train isn’t going, the Remembrance Day Parade isn’t happening.
“I am not comfortable authorizing a parade at this time on city property,” he said. He added that he respects and understands what the association is trying to do, but safety must prevail.