The Belgrade Fall Festival Parade scheduled for Sept. 19 has been canceled, the latest casualty of the COVID-19 pandemic that has disrupted normal life and special events everywhere for nearly six months.
Belgrade Chamber of Commerce Director Kristi Gee said Wednesday that only 12 parade entries had been received by mid-week, making it impractical to close streets and assign city staff to maintain the parade route during the event.
She added that while many business owners who normally enter the parade were enthusiastic about the annual community celebration, some were concerned about unintentionally sending a “wrong message” to the public by sponsoring a float in these emotionally charged times.
“It’s just a very odd time – people are concerned about public perception,” Gee said.
Back in July, the chamber announced plans for a Fall Festival with modifications designed to keep the community safe and healthy. The planning committee chose to cancel the popular park activities and community barbecue, but thought the parade could go on with some modifications, such as extending the route so that spectators could maintain adequate distance from one another.
The committee also decided over the summer to extend the festival, starting with a series of mini celebrations on Monday, Sept. 14. Despite the parade cancellation, Gee said Wednesday that those are still being planned.
“We’re still going to call it the Fall Festival and make it a Belgrade event,” she said.
Starting Monday, Belgrade residents are invited to check the Chamber’s Facebook page daily to discover the challenge of the day. Prizes will be awarded, mostly in the form of gift cards for local businesses.
Gee said she will hang Fall Festival banners for the community to enjoy, including those that would have adorned the Chamber’s own float.
“Fall Festival is a big part of our community and has been for so long,” Gee said. “As with everything else, it will look a little different in 2020.”
City Manager Ted Barkley said Wednesday morning that the decision to cancel the parade was disappointing but understandable.
“It’s a community tradition that’s hard to let go, even during an epidemic,” he said.
Gee said the Fall Festival Committee already has turned its attention to next year’s celebration. While trying to figure out accommodations for all the challenges it faced this year, the group came up with new and creative ideas it may try in the future.
“It’s made us stop and think that we’ve always done it this way, but we can do some different things,” Gee said.