Safety an issue for Christmas parade

Safety issues have created changes in Oneonta’s Christmas parade this year, according to police chief James Chapman. Bands and walking groups will disperse immediately after turning onto First Avenue from Second Street with only floats and allowed vehicles continuing down main street.

“Any time you have floats, walking groups, and bands turning off a four-lane onto a twolane street, you will have a bottle neck and a safety situation,” says Chapman. He pointed out that this year’s route follows that used for veterans Saturday and was the best possible route.

Chapman adds, “Band members want to disperse before the end of the parade route to avoid crowded lots, and parents on main street try to pick up children from walking groups such as girl scouts. Children will dart between vehicles or run in front of floats to reach parents waiting on them, creating another safety headache for policemen trying to keep everything under control.”

Parade officials have also implemented rules this year to make the route safer for watchers. No candy is to be thrown from floats, although people walking beside the floats may hand candy to children. No horses and no three – or four-wheelers or all-terrain vehicles will be allowed because of increased liability and new regulations. Though not a safety issue, another requirement is that no entry can have a live Santa and any that does will be disqualified, as Santa is arriving on transportation provided by St. Vincent’s Blount.

The parade theme this year is “The Christmas Promise,” and the event is planned for Thursday, Dec. 4, at 7 p.m. but may be delayed to Saturday, Dec. 6, at 6 p.m. in case of rain. Deadline for parade entries is noon Monday, Dec. 1, when signed applications must be received by the Blount County- Oneonta Chamber of Commerce.

Float builders needing work areas should call the chamber at 274-2153 by Thursday, Nov. 27, to reserve space. Judging begins at 5 p.m. on the day of the parade, which starts promptly at 7 p.m. Floats will enter the parade lineup on McCay Avenue at the former Gargus Pontiac building. Bands will enter from the street beside Olive Home Assisted Living and marchers will join the parade from Daniel Shopping Center.

Parade participants will proceed south down Ala 75, turning left at its intersection with Second Street (at Ace Hardware). Bands will turn right onto First Avenue where their buses will be waiting. All walking groups will continue straight on Second Street and disband in the Oneonta Public Library parking lot where parents will pick up their children. Floats and all vehicles will turn left onto First Avenue and proceed through downtown Oneonta to the Blount County/Oneonta Agribusiness Center. Route for this group, though yet unconfirmed, is a right turn onto Fourth Street at Beautique Salon and a left in front of Oneonta Utilities Board to High School Street for entry through the back gates of the agribusiness center.

Angela Blakely and Kelley Cochran are cochairs for the parade. All nonprofit groups entering floats will compete for cash prizes awarded to the top three entries. Floats entered by businesses will also be judged and awards made.