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Despite warning, Xmas parade on

ESCANABA — Despite reservations from the local health department and some members of the Escanaba City Council, Escanaba’s annual Christmas parade is set to go on as planned.

The parade is currently scheduled to take place from 7 to 9 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 4, but how the event will unfold in light of the COVID-19 pandemic remains to be seen. Prior to asking the city council to block off Ludington Street for the event during Thursday’s meeting, organizers were already planning to scale back the event by limiting the parade to a maximum of 50 floats, eliminating the traditional after-parade hot chocolate and cookies at city hall for parade participants, and banning participants from handing out candy to spectators.

However, as restrictions on gatherings and events continue to change, scaling back the parade may not be enough. Following a series of executive orders made by Governor Gretchen Whitmer being deemed unconstitutional by the state supreme court, health departments across the state have been tasked with issuing their own rules on things like the sizes of indoor and outdoor gatherings. While December could bring an entirely different landscape for the virus locally, even now, moving forward with the parade is against the advice of Public Health Delta & Menominee Counties.

“Given the current conditions in Delta County and the current emergency order, I would recommend canceling the parade for this year,” PHDMC Health Officer and Administrator Mike Snyder was quoted during Thursday’s meeting as having said in an email to City Manager Patrick Jordan. Jordan expressed he was not surprised by the response to his request for the department’s input.

Council members had their own reservations about moving forward with the parade, but they did have some suggestions as to how the festivities could continue safely. Mayor Pro-Tem Peggy O’Connell suggested parking the floats in Ludington Park and allowing residents to drive by the parked floats. Council Member Ralph Blasier suggested moving the floats to the westbound-lane of Ludington Street and opening eastbound traffic so residents could see the parked floats under streetlights.

“You’d still be able to have it, you wouldn’t have really any exposure other than families in cars,” said O’Connell.

Ultimately, what form the holiday event takes is up to the parade organizers. Thursday’s vote of the council was only on whether or not to proceed with closing Ludington Street.

“We’re talking as if we control this, and we don’t. All we are asked for tonight is for permission to do the traditional Christmas parade. If they come up with some other ideas, we could hear about them later, but the issue before us is the Christmas parade in the usual manner,” said Mayor Marc Tall.

When the issue came to a vote, the council was split with Tall and Council Member Tyler DuBord voting against moving forward with the closure. Council Members Karen Moore, Blasier and O’Connell voted in favor of the closure, but each of the approving members expressed they believed the approval allowed the parade’s organizers to develop a safe event, even if it wasn’t the traditional parade.

“If we approve it, then we give creative license to you to come up with something that would be acceptable to the health department and the community,” Moore told Organizing Chair Tanya Ettenhofer, who attended the meeting to present the closure request.

In other business, the council

— set public hearings for condemnation of structures located at 226 North 12th Street and 602 North 18th Street.

— approved the purchase of a new truck for public works, a distribution and service van for the water department, and a maintenance trailer for the wastewater department.

— approved the hire and retention of services from CPM of Escanaba to do work on the wastewater department’s #4 digester. The repairs are not to exceed $40,000.

— renewed a five-year lease agreement with private citizens for a parking lot on their property. The lease is a renewal of a previous agreement, which has spanned 20 years.

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