The head of the Rutland Recreation and Parks Department says she does not see how the city can hold the Halloween parade this year.
On Friday, Recreation Superintendent Kim Peters said a final decision hadn’t been made yet, but it looks overwhelmingly likely the city will cancel the annual parade for the first time in its 61-year history as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The conversation has started,” Peters said. “We are making a final decision probably next week, but if I were to be a betting girl, I would say probably not. ... I’m going to leave the final decision to the Board of Aldermen.”
Board President and Acting Mayor Matt Whitcomb said he was of the same mind.
“Just based on the typical amount of people who show up and the inability to enforce any kind of social distancing norms, I don’t know how we’re going to do it,” he said. “I’m always going to be open to any way we can somehow maintain normalcy, but a parade by nature is hard to do under the restrictions we’d have to follow.”
Whitcomb said he also is worried about a resurgence of infections come autumn.
“We’ve been enjoying this gradual reopening of the state, but that might all be lost once we hit fall,” he said.
The parade is the city’s biggest single event of the year and has garnered an odd national fame because of its place in comic book lore. The original organizer of the parade was friends with a number of comic book writers, resulting in the parade — or references to it — featuring in numerous superhero stories through the years. It was most recently referenced with an Easter egg in the Netflix “Daredevil” series.
Drawing crowds that Police Chief Brian Kilcullen estimated at “upwards of 10,000,” Peters said holding the parade would be essentially impossible under the current state mandate capping outdoor gatherings at 150.
“Even if (the limit) went to 1,000, how can we monitor that?” she said. “If we don’t feel like we can monitor and control the situation, we don’t do it. ... It’s not just for the safety of the community, but people who are typically in the parade. We’ve already had people say they’re not going to participate this year.”
The pandemic has claimed numerous other local landmark events, including the Loyalty Day Parade, Winter in August and the Vermont State Fair.
“It’s really unfortunate, but at the same time, you sacrifice for one year for, hopefully, the ability to get it back for every year going forward,” Whitcomb said.
Meanwhile, Peters said, the rec department is extending summer camps for two weeks to cover the delayed start of the school year. She said the delay of school and fall sports has meant she can hang on to most of her summer staff longer than usual.
“Our focus right now is on the essential needs of the community,” Peters said. “Our pool will stay open and our summer camps will continue. ... We have seen up to 135 kids (at a time), which includes specialty camps. ... When we’re done, we will have done 25 weeks of child care, which is half a year.”