Although the Raleigh Christmas Parade will go forward on foot this year, the city’s initial decision to cancel the parade garnered criticism from residents and parade organizers during the city council’s regular meeting on Tuesday.
Late last week, city officials announced organizers of theRaleigh Christmas Parade were denied a permit out of “an abundance of caution” and respect for the tragic death of 11-year-old Hailey Brooks during the parade last year. An out-of-control truck that had gone uninspected for months struck the young dancer in front of hundreds of parade attendees.
Following backlash over the parade’s cancellation, however, city officials partially reversed the decision, saying the parade would instead go forward as a pedestrian-only event, without motorized vehicles or floats. The decision was a compromise between city officials and the Greater Raleigh Merchants Association and Shop Local Raleigh, the groups that help organize the parade.
Still, many residents, including Brooks’s family, questioned why the city would cancel or modify the parade rather than implement stricter safety precautions, including those outlined in pending state legislation dubbed the “Shine Like Hailey Parade Safety Bill.”
The bill—which has passed the state House but not the Senate—would require parade vehicles to be inspected within one week of the event, among other stipulations. Raleigh Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin has said one reason the city initially decided to cancel the parade was because the bill and its new safety regulations have not yet become law.
The city was also concerned about ongoing lawsuits against parties including the Greater Raleigh Merchants Association and Shop Local Raleigh, although the city itself was not named as a defendant.
On Tuesday, Shop Local Raleigh Executive Director Jennifer Martin raised further questions about the city’s decisions on the parade, outlining the work she and others have done in an effort to make this year’s parade safer.
Three other parades with automobiles and floats have been permitted by the city since November 2022, Martin said, with the city imposing no additional safety requirements beyond a new rule requiring that parade vehicles provide proof of registration and insurance.
Meanwhile, organizers of the Raleigh Christmas Parade have met this and other city regulations and also added additional safety rules, Martin added. Under these new rules, parade drivers must be at least 21 years old, ride with a 21-year-old passenger, and demonstrate that their vehicles have passed a state inspection.
If the parade had gone forward as planned, all vehicles would also have been subject to a review of towing capacity limits and a third-party safety inspection prior to the event, Martin said.
“The denial of the Raleigh Christmas Parade came as a shock and disappointment to the organizers,” she added. “Our organizations requested numerous times to meet with city staff and various departments … and our requests were left unanswered.”
Martin ended her comments by handing out a document to city council members outlining the new parade rules.
“Permitting other parades with less stringent requirements sets a bad precedent and unfairly singles out the Raleigh Christmas Parade,” she said. “We are simply asking for the opportunity to present to you what we have worked on and how we want to help make all events in the City of Raleigh safer.”
Read the document outlining precautions The Greater Raleigh Merchants Association has taken to make the Christmas Parade safer below:20230919-JMartin