Following the cancellation of the Hernando Christmas parade, some residents have joined to come up with a creative, safe alternative. The solution, a “reverse parade,” addresses the COVID-19 related concerns of holding a parade, but it also comes with its own set of logistical hurdles.
Originally scheduled for Dec. 7, the Hernando Main Street Chamber of Commerce announced Nov. 18 that the beloved Christmas parade was canceled because of the ongoing threat of COVID-19.
After seeing multiple ideas being considered on Facebook, Julie Hopkins, a parent and former teacher from Hernando, came up with a unique solution. She proposed the idea of a reverse parade, and other residents instantly jumped on the idea.
“I heard that several cities around us are doing a reverse parade,” Hopkins said. “I wanted to present this as an option for Hernando.”
In a reverse parade, Hopkins said that floats and participants will be parked along the parade route, and cars can drive by to view the parade. This would be a safer option compared to a traditional parade in terms of risk of catching COVID-19, as viewers remain in their own vehicle instead of gathering in crowds to view the parade.
Hopkins said 30 businesses and individuals have expressed interest in participating.
Hopkins presented the concept to the Hernando Board of Aldermen during its Tuesday meeting, but the board did not grant her a permit for the event. Hopkins will now have to come back to Mayor Tom Ferguson and the Aldermen with a plan that addresses all the issues that caused the Chamber of Commerce to cancel the city’s parade.
One issue is event insurance, which the Chamber usually purchases. This is the first time the Aldermen have been asked to sign off on an event where it would fall on an individual to take care of this liability. Hopkins has to secure this within the next few days for the reverse parade to have a chance of happening.
The route for the parade was also an issue, as Hopkins’ initially proposed route would have blocked access to some business on Commerce Street. When this has occurred during city events, the Chamber of Commerce has gotten permission from the business owners affected. An alternative idea for moving the route to residential areas was also shot down because of concerns about emergency vehicle access being blocked to certain streets if needed.
The board told Hopkins that her best option is to hold the reverse parade across the parking lots of the Hernando Civic Center. This presented another logistical hurdle though, as the Center and its baseball fields are county property. Scott Worsham, Hernando’s Chief of Police, said he fully supported the event and his department would help in any way they could, but they would not have jurisdiction to do so at the new venue. Hopkins now has to request that the DeSoto County Sheriff’s Department provide that security.
After the Board of Aldermen meeting, Hopkins said she is going to do everything she can to make the event happen. She faces an uphill battle, though, with little time for it all to come together.
Hopkins said that as a parent, she has seen her children disappointed many times this year, and she wants to restore some hope for the holidays.
“If I can get the citizens of Hernando together to spread a little Christmas cheer to our children, then I want to make that happen,” Hopkins said.