Killaloe plans parade despite pandemic

When kids ask, “But why can’t we?” their parents’ response this year is usually, “Because … COVID.” That wasn’t good enough for Chris Neff, Community Development Coordinator for the Township of Killaloe Hagarty Richards (KHR). Neff was determined that kids in Killaloe would not miss out on a parade this Christmas season because of COVID protocols. Above: float from 2019 traditional parade. (Photo Facebook/Killaloe and Area Lions Club.)

From a starting point centred on a live Nativity, Neff told The Current that he had to think really hard to find a solution that could protect all participating community members. Once he had the bright idea that the easiest way to prevent people from crowding together while watching a parade was to have the spectators do the walking in small, socially-distanced groups, Neff worked with the Renfrew County and District Health Unit (RCDHU) until he came up with an approved plan. The next step was getting approval from KHR Council, and on September 29 Council members voted unanimously to give him the green light. So now he’s going public with his idea.

How does a Walk-Through Christmas Parade work?

Neff explained that his requirements were to protect everyone involved, utilize community resources, involve as many community groups as possible, and avoid spending any more than the cost of a traditional parade. He showed KHR Council a map of Station Park and indicated where approximately 20 floats could be located yet still maintain the 10 foot distance between them that Farmers’ Market vendors have implemented between their stalls this season. He pointed out that sufficient parking was available to accommodate local families’ vehicles.

Now for the tricky part: how to keep people in small groups. Neff’s concept for a Walk-Through Parade follows:

  • issue advance tickets to local community members
  • each ticket allows timed entry for a small group to the float area
  • before the entry time, the group checks in at a holding area
  • the group walks for about ten minutes down a one-way path through the floats
  • children receive treat bags at the end and the group members return to their cars
  • the next group is then allowed into the one-way system
Above: Chris Neff (top right) explains Walk-Through Christmas Parade to KHR Council using map of Station Park

When Neff presented his plan to KHR Council last week, Ontario was still permitting up to 25 people to gather in an outdoor setting. While Ontario has since “paused” social bubbles, smaller household or family groups could still participate. He admits that everything is fluid and will depend on government protocols in effect at the time, but as he is developing this event with the involvement and support of RCDHU, Neff is fairly confident he will find a way to implement his resourceful solution. At this time he is aiming for a “parade date” of November 14th, but he seeks community input before finalizing the date.

Next steps

With permission from both public health and the municipality, Neff is now reaching out to the community. His first stop is the Killaloe Lions who are usually heavily involved in the annual parade. He told The Current on Monday that he would meet with them this week. Then he hopes to hold a virtual/Zoom meeting after Thanksgiving with any and all community organizations who would like to have floats or otherwise participate in the Walk-Through Christmas Parade.

The tentative date for this remote meeting is Wednesday, October 14 at a time to be confirmed. If you or your organization would like to attend, please contact Chris Neff at 613.757.2300 or email communitydevelopment@khrtownship.ca

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