At the City Council’s Municipal Operations and Property Subcommittee meeting this week, there was a discussion about making changes to this year’s Holly Daze Parade to make it safer. Police Chief Craig Andersen said having the event on the traditional Friday night at rush hour on the busiest street in town has been “a nightmare” for the Police Department. There have been several close calls at the event, he said, including one where an officer had to nearly run into a vehicle to prevent it from crashing into the parade. He pointed out that this year Maine has seen a spike in traffic fatalities, and he would like to see the event evolve into something safer for everyone.
The Holly Daze Parade is Sanford’s traditional kickoff to the Christmas season. The parade begins in the area of York St., and continues down Main St. to the Midtown Mall, culminating in the tree lighting in Central Park with Santa and Mrs. Claus. Last year’s event was held December 3.
The Subcommittee members discussed various options, including having an expanded tree lighting event without the parade, having the parade during the daytime, on a different night of the week, or with a shorter route.
Deputy Mayor Maura Herlihy pointed out that having the parade in the evening creates a better event for local businesses, and also means people who work during the day can attend. But she said the City should mandate that people who want to hand out candy have walkers on either side along the route, to prevent kids from running out into the street.
Mayor Anne-Marie Mastraccio said one possibility would be to hold a larger tree lighting event that could involve shutting down the downtown area and having stationary floats, rather than moving ones.
City Manager Steve Buck suggested keeping the parade as it is now, but moving it to Thursday night instead. He said having a daytime parade and a nighttime tree lighting would involve blocking off the streets twice, and people wouldn’t want to come back for the tree lighting.
Deputy Police Chief Eric Small presented his idea of keeping the nighttime parade, but moving it to School St. instead, with staging at the Public Works Department or on side streets. This would keep Main St. open and have less of an impact on traffic.
No decision was made. The Police Department and Parks and Rec will have further discussions before the matter comes back to the Subcommittee.
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