Dillon rains on Fourth of July parade
February 20, 2008
DILLON ” For many people, Fourth of July parades are an integral part of small town life. The floats, the horses, the bands and the fire engines inching down Main Street, U.S.A., are as American as apple pie and as important to celebration of Independence Day as fireworks.
This year, the town of Dillon will no longer stage the midsummer event, and a group of locals are more than a little upset about it.
“We had Fourth of July parades before the streets were paved in Dillon,” longtime resident Nanci Campbell told the town council Tuesday night. “It’s part of our culture. It’s part of the joy of living in a small town.”
Nearly two dozen citizens showed up at Tuesday’s council meeting to express their feelings about the cancellation of the parade and to vent their frustration with the town’s decision-making process. Town business owner and resident Pam Polak presented the council with a petition signed by 120 individuals requesting the town to reconsider its decision.
“People were shocked when I showed them the petition,” Polak said. “The town had kept it rather quiet, and I think the public has a right to talk about it.”
The town decided to cancel the parade in November, town manager Devin Granbery said. According to Granbery, council members approached town staff last fall and asked them to develop a method of evaluating town-sponsored events. Once a set of criteria was agreed on by the council, town event coordinators looked at every event on the calendar using those criteria and made recommendations accordingly.
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The Fourth of July parade ” an annual event in Dillon for more than a quarter century ” didn’t pass muster and the town council agreed to consign it to the history books.
The council based its thumbs-down decision about the parade on several factors, town communications and marketing manager Susan Fairweather said. The primary issue was safety, she said. The town has not been able to provide sufficient staff to ensure the safety of spectators, and could conceivably be accused of negligence if a young child were injured when running into the street for candy.
The traffic congestion and accompanying gridlock also concerned event coordinators, Fairweather added. With Lake Dillon Drive blocked off for an hour and a half in the middle of the year’s busiest day in town, the Marina, the amphitheater, and the lakeside are all essentially inaccessible to emergency vehicles, and no one can either enter or exit the town.
“The town staff ends up handling angry people who want to get out,” she said.
The small number of spectators generally drawn by the parade ” especially compared to the crowds for the day’s parades in Breckenridge and Frisco ” was the nail in the coffin for the Dillon event.
“We’ve struggled for years with the lackluster attendance at our parade,” Mayor Barbara Davis said. The actual numbers involved were a source of disagreement at Tuesday’s meeting. Councilmember Don Parsons elicited a chorus of jeers from the crowd when he shared his estimate.
“I’ve been in the parade for five years,” he said. “And there’s almost as many people in this room as I’ve seen on the curb.”
Resident Barb Richard interrupted Parsons to say she counted 2,000 spectators at last year’s parade.
While acknowledging citizen concerns, Mayor Davis defended the council’s action.
“The last thing I want to do is tear apart the fabric of the community,” she said. “We deliberated on the parade for a long time.”
In lieu of the traditional event, she told the group, the town wants to do something “spectacular” that will “really knock everyone’s socks off.” Potential activities ” all still in the planning stage ” might include a kids’ bike parade, all-day music at the amphitheater, a mini artist festival, and events focused on the water.
Polak expressed disappointment that the town’s mind is made up about the parade.
“We don’t want to give up,” she said. “We do feel we were kind of shut down.”
Fairweather said she hopes interested citizens will participate in the development process for replacement events.
Irrespective of any pros and cons, the end of Dillon’s Fourth of July parade marks the end of an era for the town ” the significance of which longtime Summit County local Lynn Amstutz evoked in her public comment at Tuesday’s meeting.
“I’m starting to feel like a grizzly bear that’s losing its habitat,” she said.