Last Friday, the leadership of the Blount-Oneonta Chamber of Commerce made the final call on the fate of this year’s Blount County Christmas Parade. With COVID-19 cases escalating at an alarming rate, chamber executive director Barbara Andersen announced that this year’s parade unfortunately would not take place.
The Chamber’s Facebook feed was soon filled with angry posts full of mean, hostile, and ugly comments, which didn’t exactly convey the true spirit of Christmas – joy as the world awaits the celebration of the birth of Jesus.
“Here at the Chamber, the Blount County Christmas Parade is always our favorite event of the year,” Andersen said. “Having to cancel this year’s parade was very sad for us, but sometimes doing the right thing is not the easiest path. It makes us feel a little better knowing that this was done in the best interest of Blount County.”
The Alabama Department of Public Health issues a weekly report every Friday on COVID risk in each of Alabama’s counties. This past Friday, Blount was one of only nine counties across the state in the “very high risk” category. www.alpublichealth.maps.arcgis.com/apps/opsdashboard/index.html#/b585b67ef4074bb2b4443975bf14f77d
Right now, and in the past few weeks, Blount County has had multiple schools that have been forced to go to all remote learning. “Because our schools are struggling to remain open, the last thing we need to do is bring kids together from all parts of the county at one event,” Andersen continued.
Also, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has ranked various types of holiday activities into three risk categories; “attending crowded parades” is in their highest risk category. The Blount County Christmas Parade draws the biggest event crowd the county experiences each year. Spectators crowd the parade route, businesses along the route hold parties and open houses, and parade participants socialize for several hours during the line-up process.
One of the trademarks of a professionally managed organization is that they follow proper risk management practices.
“Safety risks that are within the Chamber’s control are addressed and proper insurance is obtained to cover those that cannot be anticipated,” Andersen explained. “We were notified this year that our event insurance specifically excludes COVID-related issues. Upon investigation, we found that this is true of all event insurance policies out there right now, not just the one carried by the Chamber. Organizations that are going forward with these types of events right now are not covered for a loss resulting from someone being exposed to COVID at their events.”
The Chamber focuses on supporting local businesses and enhancing the quality of life for all people in Blount County. Andersen said that these two missions can best be served right now “by doing our part to help Blount County get its COVID numbers under control. Yes, we will all miss the parade, but in the long run, going forward with the parade would only serve to move us further away from a return to something resembling normal life here in Blount County.
“Public safety is always the number one concern here at the Chamber because we love y’all! We look forward to seeing everyone at next year’s parade.”
As an alternative to the Blount County Christmas Parade this year, Andersen offered several suggestions:
• Take a drive-thru tour of the Christmas lights at Palisades Park. They are open Dec. 1 through Dec. 31, from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. (Closed Christmas Eve and Christmas Day). “They have an awesome display every year and any donation large or small goes to the support of the park,” she said.”
• Other possible drive-by social distancing friendly events include the Griswold Tour of Homes, downtown Oneonta with its 35 festive Christmas trees, and a drive-by live nativity all sponsored by the Oneonta Business Association.
• St. Vincent’s Blount will hold a drive-thru visit with Santa and Mrs. Claus on Dec. 4, from 6-8 pm.
If you know of any other drive-by Christmas events taking place in Blount County, call the Chamber at 205-274-2153 and they’ll help promote it. Also, give us a call at 205- 625-3231 and we will share in our community announcements.