HUNTINGTON, WV (WOWK) — With COVID-19 continually spreading at high rates, it’s no surprise many events are being canceled yet again this year.
One recent cancellation is drawing controversy in the Jewel City.
The Huntington Fire Prevention Parade used to be an annual staple in October. However, after COVID-19 put the brakes on this year’s festivities, it’s drawing mixed reactions.
Residents of the Jewel City will tell you: the Huntington Fire Prevention Parade is a big deal.
“It is a big community tradition. It occurs on the first Monday of every October to coincide with National Fire Prevention Month,” says Bryan Chambers, communications director for the City of Huntington.
Organized by the Huntington Fire Department, Chambers says it usually includes other fire departments and schools from around the Tri-State.
“We don’t have a ton of parades here, but it is by far the largest every year,” Chambers says.
However, this year:
“Because we know that the largest segment of attendees is small children who cannot be vaccinated, we are having to cancel the parade,” Chambers says.
The decision is controversial, drawing more than one hundred comments and hundreds of shares on the City’s Facebook post.
A state delegate chimed in on the cancellation as well; Delegate John Mandt, Jr. (R-Cabell) posted, saying it ‘appears to be a hypocritical decision.’
“You know, it seems a little hypocritical… It’s just, we have a lot of things going on that contradict each other. ‘No, we’re not going to do a fire parade that’s outside, but by gosh we can do youth football and youth soccer up at the Glennbriar[sic] every weekend,” Mandt says.
Local businesses along the parade route say it is one of the busiest days of the year for those on Fourth Avenue.
“Frankly, I think it’s probably the better choice to make. Especially the way this is right now, I kind of think they made a wise choice,” says Vicky Cooper, co-owner of The Old Village Roaster.
City officials say while they are equally disappointed in the cancellation, they believe this is the safest option given the current surge of COVID-19 in the county.