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Jaycees: Fredericksburg Christmas Parade ‘might not happen’

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Archived footage from last year’s Jaycees Christmas Parade in downtown Fredericksburg.

Fredericksburg is instituting new safety standards for this year’s Christmas parade to avoid the kinds of tragedies that have occurred elsewhere, City Manager Bev Cameron said.

News of a child getting run over by a float at a Florida parade a few years ago, and general security concerns led Cameron to direct the city’s police and tourism departments to begin crafting new oversight plans last spring.

“We have become aware of terrible tragedies that have taken place because of poor planning and we didn’t want to see that happen in Fredericksburg,” he said.

Changes evident to the public will be ones spurred by complaints in previous years such as providing more toilet facilities and creating places where people can cross the parade route, if necessary.

The Fredericksburg Jaycees Christmas Parade will begin at 5:30 p.m. on Dec. 7. The Saturday event is expected to last two hours with a route that starts on Caroline Street, travels to Amelia and then along Princess Anne, ending at the reviewing stand near Wolfe Street. Each year, the event draws thousands of people downtown.

This year, city officials created a parade checklist that spells out the responsibilities of the Jaycees, the Fredericksburg Police Department, the city Public Works Department, and its Parks and Recreation.

The Jaycees have until Monday to provide the city with a list of 35 volunteers who will serve as parade marshals. However, Jaycees parade co-chairwoman Jennifer Adkins said she only has 15 so far.

“We have always had trouble getting volunteers,” Adkins said Monday.

She said she has reached out to the 97 groups that are participating in the parade to solicit volunteers, but said no one from them has come forward.

“We have stressed, if we don’t get the volunteers, the parade might not happen, but we’ve not gotten one person to help,” Adkins said.

Karen Hedelt, the city’s director of economic development and tourism, said the city is not threatening to cancel the parade.

If the Jaycees don’t recruit enough people, the city will try to find volunteers and, as a last resort, hire people to help, Hedelt said. However, she has no funds in her budget to hire people.

Cameron said he’s optimistic the Jaycees will find help, but the deadline was set out of a concern for sufficient staffing.

“There has been a problem in recent years with a dwindling number of parade marshals,” he said.

Adkins said the checklist hasn’t changed anything for the Jaycees since they had always used an internal one.

City Police Chief David Nye said he came up with the checklist idea and other changes after doing online research about parades in other parts of the country.

He set a limit for the size of floats, is prohibiting ones with protruding parts, is not allowing vehicles to make maneuvers except in front of the judges’ viewing stand, and is banning children 14 and younger from walking alongside a float.

Marshals also will wear reflective vests and they and representatives for each float will get a pre-parade briefing on safety.

Hedelt said she didn’t see any risk of the parade getting canceled this year because of a shortage of Jaycees volunteers, but said the problem could have long-term ramifications.

“It could impact when it happens in future years,” she said.

WANT TO GO?

The Fredericksburg Jaycees Christmas Parade is free. It begins at 5:30 p.m. on Dec. 7.

The route travels along Caroline, Amelia and Princess Anne streets.

VOLUNTEERS NEEDED

The Fredericksburg Jaycees need 20 more volunteers by Monday to meet the city’s requirements for the 2013 Christmas parade.

Volunteers would work from 2 to 8 p.m. on Dec. 7 and would receive free food and beverages afterward, Jaycees co-chairwoman Jennifer Adkins said.

The volunteers also help a worthy cause, she said. Money raised through the parade will be used to take about 25 local children shopping for Christmas and provide them with a gift card for food.

Anyone interested in volunteering should email Adkins at: jen.t.adkins@gmail.com.

Pamela Gould: 540/735-1972

pgould@freelancestar.com

 

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