With the recent announcement of new COVID-19 restrictions in Alberta, Airdrie Parades has announced its decision to once again cancel the annual Santa Claus Parade.
According to Sammy Morros, co-chair with Airdrie Parades, in a typical, non-COVID year, registration for the Christmas-themed parade starts around Thanksgiving, which meant a decision had to be made last week.
“Unfortunately, with some of the new restrictions that were announced and with the overall pandemic climate that we are seeing, it’s just not possible to do the event in a way that is safe,” she said.
With Alberta in the midst of a fourth wave of the pandemic, the Province announced recently that outdoor gatherings are limited to 200 people, with social distancing requirements in effect. Due to the nature of the Santa Claus Parade, Morros said it would be difficult to be able to offer an event that fell in line with those restrictions.
“It’s just not something that is going to be possible for our committee,” she said.
Morros added the event was also cancelled last year due to the pandemic. She said the normal gathering size for the parade, which makes its way down Airdrie’s Main Street in early December, is around 5,000 to 6,000 people.
“Restrictions aside, it’s almost more of a concern having to enforce some of the pieces, like the social distancing,” she said. “It’s just not possible to enforce those types of things.”
While having to cancel the event last year was tough, Morros said she and the organizing team thought the pandemic would have been more manageable by now.
“It is a significant bummer,” she said.
Since cancelling last year’s parade, Morros said the team has been battling the “could” and “should” components of these events. She said prior to restrictions, there wasn’t anything necessarily holding back Airdrie Parades from hosting an event, but conversations also centred on whether or not it would be the best idea to hold large gatherings considering the current climate.
“The news that we got [last] week made the decision for us,” she said. “It’s definitely something we have been going back and forth with for a long time.”
Planning the parade is not the issue, according to Morros. She said with Airdrie Parades having so much experience in putting on the Santa Claus Parade and the Canada Day Parade every year, the logistics aren’t the difficult part.
“Can we? Should we? Should we not?” she said. “We experienced that with Canada Day this year. We planned this whole alternative event, and then restrictions lifted the day of Canada Day.
“It’s another one of those situations where you do what you can with the information that you have at any given moment.”
Having to inform Airdronians of another cancelled event is never fun for Morros or Airdrie Parades members, but she said the pandemic has given the organization the opportunity to find ways to get creative and ensure something else can be done for Airdrie residents.
“It has helped us get creative, but we are certainly eager for a return to parades as normal,” she said.
While the cancellation will surely be upsetting to some residents, Morros said part of the reason the decision was made with more than a month to go until the event would typically take place is to ensure some sort of alternative event could be organized.
“We have some fun things we have just started working on as an alternative to the parade,” she said. “We are looking forward to announcing that in the next couple of weeks.”