NC mayor explains decision to move forward with Christmas parade

Southern University will have its first Christmas tree lighting on Thursday, Dec. 5.
Southern University will have its first Christmas tree lighting on Thursday, Dec. 5.(
Published: Dec. 4, 2020 at 11:57 AM EST
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YOUNGSVILLE, N.C. (WNCN) – The Town of Youngsville is moving forward with its Christmas parade on Saturday despite concerns related to the ongoing pandemic. Mayor Fonzie Flowers put out a video explaining the decision and the Town’s efforts to keep the public safe.

The Town said Tuesday it would proceed with the parade, scheduled for Saturday at 10 a.m., despite county and state health officials advising them to cancel.

Thursday evening, the Town released a video in which Flowers explained the decision to move forward with the event. He first said that anyone who has symptoms of COVID-19 or lives with anyone exhibiting symptoms should quarantine appropriately. He also said anyone who wouldn’t feel safe at the parade should stay home.

Flowers further explained that social distancing, hand washing and sanitizing, and masks are all expected.

“The town is confident our community can work together and observe public health best practices to have a safe Christmas parade,” Flowers said.

Flowers further justified the decision in saying that the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services guidelines permits hundreds or thousands of people to be inside some larger grocery stores.

“Our parade is the exact opposite: outdoors, physically distanced, and masked,” Flowers said. “To put it simply, if our state’s health guidelines allow over 2,000 people to be in a 4-acre Walmart at the same time, we believe it’s safe to have a fraction of that number along our outdoor parade route.”

Earlier Thursday, CBS 17 reported a Nov. 25 email from Franklin County Health Director Scott LaVigne to Youngsville Town Administrator Phillip Cordeiro says the department advises Youngsville to cancel the Dec. 5 town-sponsored parade due to the pandemic.

Parade organizers would need to submit altered plans so the parade would comply with guidance from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services on such events. Part of NCDHHS’ parade guidance is a max number of 50 spectators for a parade.

Overwhelming support for the parade helped town officials decide to proceed even though they said county and state health officials advised them not to.

In LaVigne’s Nov. 25 email, he said the county health department would invoke a Public Health Imminent Hazard Abatement Order to stop the parade unless the event comes into compliance with state health orders.

On Wednesday, LaVigne sent another email to Cordeiro asking for the Town of Youngsville to either cancel the parade or “significantly alter it.”

LaVigne said the county health department wants certain information from the town – including an estimate of the number of spectators, a list of participants, and a plan for how spectators will wear masks.

A separate plan is needed from organizers about how the Town will protect participants and spectators.

“We would once again call-upon the Town of Youngsville to cancel or significantly alter this Town-Sponsored event,” LaVigne wrote.

The requested plans had a submission deadline of 5 p.m. Thursday.

Sheriff Kent Winstead and County Manager Kim Denton are copied on both emails.

Winstead told CBS 17 it would be up to Youngsville police to enforce an executive orders.

Dr. Philip Meador, chairman of the Franklin County Board of Health, is included on the Dec. 2 email.

Brandi Dennison, owner of Brandi’s Botanicals, said she usually participates in the annual parade.

Her shop is on the parade route but she has decided to close her shop this year.

“I myself was a little nervous about it especially about the people that want to come in and don’t want to wear a mask,” she said.

She thinks canceling this year’s parade would be the smart move.

“Of course the executive order would say to cancel so I understand we’re kind of breaking the law. I just hope everybody wears a mask and they stay far enough apart and respect each other,” she said.

On the other side of the debate is Youngsville resident Jayson Schmitt.

“I think the parade should go on. It’s up to people to distance themselves,” he said. “People who are immune-compromised should stay home. But if you’re a healthy individual and you want to enjoy the lights and festivities, I say go for it.”

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