Christmas parade officials say ‘neigh’ to horses, ATVs

Published 6:00 am Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Brookhaven Christmas parade will have something of a newlook this year, as several long-standing traditions are beingchanged up for various reasons.

The traditional use of horses, all-terrain vehicles and firetruck sirens won’t be a part of this year’s Christmas parade,officials said. The Christmas Parade takes place at 7 p.m. onThursday, Dec. 3, with the Fire Brigade starting at 6:45 p.m.

Christmas Parade Chairman Rita Rich said the change on thehorses and ATVs is based on liability issues.

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“I know horses have always been a part of the parade since itsinception,” Rich said. “Nobody loves horses more than me. Butbecause of the liability connected to the horses and ATVs, we can’thave them this year.”

The rule also applies to other animals that are ridden or thatpull carts or buggies, said Chamber of Commerce Executive VicePresident Cliff Brumfield.

“The parade has grown tremendously in recent years, which isbringing record crowds to downtown Brookhaven on the night of theevent. With increased commerce downtown, and the rise in the numberof living quarters, and there’s a larger crowd, we had to makechanges to accommodate modern times,” Brumfield said. “Horses havebeen a long-standing tradition of the parade, back to everyresident’s childhood. The committee who oversees the parade hasreluctantly made this decision, and it was not made lightly.”

Brumfield said there have also been complaints in the past, notonly from concerned parents who are worried about their children onthe ground near the horses, but also from local businessowners.

“To compound the situation, there is simply no appropriate wayto stage them other than paved parking lots, and try as we may toclean up the aftermath, the smell lingers for days,” he said. “Thisis many merchant’s busiest season, and we receive complaints fordays on end after the parades. With the degree of commerce that ishere, this is no longer acceptable.”

The only exception to that rule, Rich said, is for ATV dealers -if they will accept the liability.

The Lincoln County Fire Association voted last week to silencethe sirens in the parade, citing the fact that it’s hard forchildren to enjoy the parade with their fingers in their ears.

“We’ve had a few complaints about the noise of the sirensespecially on the children, and we decided that it would be thebest thing not to do that,” said Fire Coordinator Clifford Galey.”We’re going to do our best to keep them from doing that.”

Meanwhile, Rich also issued further explanation on this year’sparade theme, “Onward.”

“I thought ‘Onward’ was self-explanatory, but apparently it’snot,” Rich said. “The theme is actually ‘Onward ChristianSoldiers,’ but that’s too long to fit on the side of a float.You’ve got to have letters big enough to see.”

The theme, Rich said, gives float makers the option to play offthe ‘Onward’ theme, the ‘Christian’ theme, or the ‘Soldiers’ theme.She said she expects to see floats honoring the troops and veteransin addition to the usual Christmas scenes.

“You could have the four branches of the services, with peopledressed in uniform,” she said. “There are a lot of ways you cango.”

The Exchange Club will be giving out 4,000 flags at the postoffice before the parade, Rich said, adding that when this year’sGrand Marshal Bronze Star winner Brian McGee passes, parade-goerscan wave them to honor his service as a representation of honoringall the American troops and veterans that have served and arecurrently serving in the military.

Rich also asked that float drivers and other people in theparade be patient on the night of the event. She said volunteerswho help line up the floats have their hands full.

“They do the best they can, and we don’t have a lot of roomwhile we’re lining up, so you just have to grin and bear it,” shesaid. “You’ll be in the parade, even though you may not be whereyou want to be, but you’ll be in it. Just be patient.”