The 40th edition of Lakeland’s Christmas Parade, an annual tradition that lines downtown streets with an estimated 30,000 viewers, has been cancelled because of coronavirus concerns, the city of Lakeland announced today.
The decision was made jointly by The Junior League of Greater Lakeland, which organizes the parade, and the city, which provides substantial support. “The organizing committee has obvious concerns regarding the pandemic and the unknowns of what impacts the virus may have going forward,” city of Lakeland spokesman Kevin Cook said in a news release issued this afternoon.
Applications to participate in a 2020 parade are way down from previous years, city Parks and Recreation Director Bob Donahay said. “On most years we have over 100 applications going into September, and right now we have 10 applicants and no marching bands,” he said. “It is important that we notify the public and those few parade participants that completed applications of the decision to cancel the event before they start spending significant funds on floats, decorations and other parade accommodations.”
City Manager Tony Delgado added, “It is extremely difficult to plan for a large-scale event during a global health crisis. Our hope is this all goes away and we can get back to the life we all enjoyed before the coronavirus.”
Earlier this year, Lakeland’s annual Independence Day fireworks at Lake Mirror were cancelled, also because of coronavirus concerns. Like the Christmas parade, the fireworks display often squeezed large crowds into tight areas.
In recent years, hundreds of people claimed early viewing spots along the Christmas Parade route by placing folding chairs several rows deep on downtown sidewalks.
Today’s announcement drew reactions from understanding to disappointment to disgust immediately after it was posted on Facebook.
To relive the 2019 Christmas Parade, check this video:
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