LILLINGTON — One of the few remaining Christmas parade dominoes fell Monday morning.
Lillington commissioners decided to pull the plug on this year’s Christmas parade, joining a long list of neighboring communities that elected to do the same amidst the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Town Manager Joseph Jeffries at Monday’s board work session asked commissioners how they wanted to approach this year’s parade and accompanying events such as Santa’s Workshop and the annual tree lighting celebration. With so much restrictions still in place, and tepid interest at best from normal participants, commissioners felt it best to throw in the towel for 2020.
“I know we want to do things and we want to do the right things,” Mayor Glenn McFadden said. “I know the Christmas parade is very special to all of us, but with that said, what do we do? We’re a month away and at this point I just don’t think we can move forward with a parade this year.”
Christy Norris, Lillington’s youth programs director and community center activities and marketing administrator, said she received only 13 responses from people interested in participating in a parade compared to the normal 50 that sign up every year. COVID-19 restrictions eliminated basically any form of live music, including from local marching bands. The Harnett County Sheriff’s Office agreed to participate in the festivities, but commissioners felt the virus made the prospect of any form of large gathering untenable.
“I like the idea of a parade,” said Commissioner Rupert Langdon, who told the board he has yet to receive any invitations to play Santa Claus so far this holiday season. “If we’re not going to have a workshop because of people, it’s not going to be any better out on the streets. As a group, you’re going to have more people jammed into the same place or smaller than you would at the community center. I’d rather do nothing than make a mess out of it. It’s like we’re trying to force it.”
With the parade originally scheduled for Dec. 12 and COVID-19 cases in North Carolina still high, McFadden recommended the town avoid promoting large crowds.
“I don’t know if I want a parade with 11 people in it,” McFadden said. “I don’t know if we want to condone bringing people together. I think we have to be mindful. What I view from riding in the parade is it’s very tight up and down the street. We need to decide what we were trying to accomplish. If we have 11 folks out there on floats it’s not going to be a very good parade. I think we should just light the tree. We can’t get the kids together to sing, so if we can’t do it the way we want to do it than what are doing?”
What COVID-19 didn’t disrupt, Mother Nature appears poised to finish off. Commissioners during the summer voted in favor of pushing the annual Fourth of July fireworks show to Veterans Day. The pandemic canceled the original show, but the town still faced a hefty price tag for the unused fireworks. In an effort to avoid flushing money down the drain and honor the area’s veterans, commissioners moved the celebration to this Wednesday. Rain, however, is expected this week, which could move the show to either its backup date on Thursday or further down the line.
Following Lillington’s Christmas parade cancellation, only Dunn, Coats and Four Oaks remained committed to the annual tradition, albeit with slight modifications.
-Dunn Daily Record