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Just over 1,300 people sign petition against changes
It’s a tradition that goes back decades in Conception Bay South, Wandalee Porter says.
“People gather along the side of the main road from one community to the next,” Porter said. “Our family has gathered for 50 years watching the parade in the same spot. We have a great big potluck, my nan makes pea soup, so it’s a big festivity for us.”
For years, the Santa Claus parade would begin in Chamberlains and work its way through to Seal Cove, Porter says.
“But they dialled it back a few years ago and stopped it in Upper Gullies, so people in Seal Cove were not very happy. I know my great-grandmother watched in the window of her house, just waiting for the parade that never came.”
In the past several years, the Kiwanis Club of Kelligrews organized the parade. But this year, according to a petition started by Porter, two weeks before the parade, the Town of Conception Bay South announced it had taken over organizing the event and was changing the route.
The parade is now concentrated in the downtown core of C.B.S., and Porter says this was done without consultation with the community.
She says she understands why the parade should be shorter, but still wishes there had been an open discussion with residents.
“No doubt, it’s a long parade,” she said. “The people in the parade are tired, the cheerleaders are tired, the band people are tired. But to just up and change it, that’s the issue.”
Porter started an online petition and put it up on a community Facebook forum called CBS Community Voice. She says in less than a day there was about 1,000 signatures. Currently, there are 1,308 signatures.
“Clearly, I’m not the only one that feels this way,” Porter said.
Ward 3 Coun. Gerard Tilley says he was also surprised to find out, less than six weeks before the parade was scheduled to take place, the Kiwanis Club of Kelligrews would no longer be at the reins.
“When it was brought to our attention, we had two choices,” he said. “Either we cancel the parade this year and probably come up with something for next year, or put something together relatively quickly.”
One of the issues, Tilley says, was safety concerns brought forward by the RNC. Because the Kiwanis Club was uncertain it would be able to meet these new suggestions, it had to drop out.
The Town of C.B.S., in consultation with the RNC and the Department of Transportation and Works, had less than six weeks to make the changes and organize the parade.
The decision to keep it concentrated in the downtown core was based on those safety concerns and the length of the parade.
Also, Tilley says, they couldn’t release any information to the public before they had the go-ahead from the provincial government to shut down the four lanes of traffic downtown.
Because of this, the announcement was only made last Thursday, about two weeks before the parade.
“Under normal circumstances you’d get about six months to prepare for this,” Tilley said. “We certainly didn’t want to not have a parade.”
Tilley says he is one of those people who will have to break their yearly tradition, one that he’s been doing since the first grandchild in his family was born, 33 years ago.
“It was with a heavy heart we made that decision,” he said. “But it’s something we feel will bring the community together.”
Whether this route will be taken in the following years, Tilley said, he’s open to talks with the public in the new year.
“We’re hoping this idea will work, (but) only time will tell,” he said. “And I’ll be the first one to admit if it doesn’t work out. I’ll certainly go back to the drawing board.”