By Randy Arrington
STANLEY, Dec. 1 — On its Nov. 18 agenda, the Stanley Council considered an item called “Upcoming Events” with the following recommendation from Town Manager Terry Pettit:
“Mayor and Council will need to make a decision on whether to hold the following events due to Governor [Ralph] Northam imposing new restrictions on the number of people that can gather at any one time.”
Included among the events up for discussion were the annual Christmas Parade, the fifth annual “Christmas in Stanley” and the Town Banquet for staff and employees.
Just three days prior, the Governor’s limit on both indoor and outdoor gatherings to 25 people went into effect on Sunday, Nov. 15.
At the suggestion of Councilman Jeremiah Knight, the Stanley Council opted to use the funds normally spent on the town banquet and distribute it among town employees to boost their holiday bonus in December. That decision came after a brief discussion on potentially allowing each department within town government to hold its own Christmas gathering with employees, to keep the crowds smaller, like the Town of Luray is doing with their employees.
The council quickly abandoned plans for the fifth annual “Christmas in Stanley” event due to concerns over crowds gathering downtown and at Ed Good Park. There was some consideration of a fireworks display after the parade, since an order had been placed for Homecoming 2020 and never used.
“If we don’t have the parade then there’s not much use of having the fireworks,” Mayor Mike Knight said during the Nov. 18 meeting. “There’s a lot of ‘ifs’.”
At that time, the major “if” concerning the parade was getting enough entries. Twenty days before the scheduled Christmas Parade, the Town of Stanley only had about 19 entries from 13 different groups. The mayor instructed the town manager to pursue permits for the parade and to seek guidance on the distribution of candy from health officials. The consensus seemed to be that at least 30 entries would be needed in order to justify hosting the parade.
Then, late Monday afternoon, the Town of Stanley posted the following on its Facebook page:
“We are sorry to say we had to cancel the Stanley Christmas Parade. Unfortunately, due to the Governor’s mandate, we were unable to get a parade permit. Due to the fact that VDOT owns and maintains all streets within the Town limits, we are required to obtain a permit from them for all events, along with permission from the Virginia State Police. Due to the COVID restrictions, neither are able to sign the permit. The Town thanks everyone for their support and understanding with this issue.”
Council members had joked at the Nov. 18 meeting that they would have to put the horses in the front of the parade to slow it down and make it seem longer with such few entries on tap. Now, entrants are being notified of the cancellation for Saturday’s annual event.
The Town seems to be off the hook for the fireworks that never got used, as the contractor was able to incorporate them into other events, according to a report the town manager gave the council after receiving a phone call on the matter during the meeting. The contractor for the fireworks had some concern about storing a large amount of fireworks at his home for a long period of time, before he found other uses for them.
Reactions on the Town’s Facebook page have been varied.
“As a healthcare worker, I just want to say thank you for doing the responsible thing and trying to stop the spread of Covid 19!” wrote Chelsea Fish.
“This is so sad, thank you so much for trying to bring Christmas cheer to our town,” wrote Rae Ann Sullivan-Cubbage.
“I know your hands are tied but this is really upsetting,” wrote Monica Morris. “As my four boys have been through enough this year, we were really looking forward the parade this year!
“Hope it’s for the best.”