On Sep. 17, Collegedale’s Parks and Recreation Department announced that it would be canceling the annual Spirit of Christmas parade that was scheduled for Dec. 6.
According to the City of Collegedale’s website, the parade was canceled after considering the current Tennessee Pledge Executive Orders regarding hosting parades and learning that several of the key partners in the parade will not be available to participate.
The Spirit of Christmas parade is an annual event involving residents, local schools and businesses. Residents not participating in the event set up chairs and watched the parade’s mile-long route, starting on Little Debbie Parkway at the East Hamilton Park/Ooltewah Youth Association fields and ending at Ooltewah Middle School.
Last year, there were about 75 contributors that participated in the parade, according to Collegedale Parks and Recreation Director Traci Bennett-Hobek.
“People come in with antique tractors and antique cars,” she said. “The Fire Department comes through, and we usually have a lot of dance groups, a couple of martial arts studios and several businesses that participate. Local politicians will also come through.”
According to Bennett-Hobek, one of the reasons the city decided to cancel the event was because important participants were not available this year.
“Each year we have certain people that come to the parade and lead off and close out the event,” she said. “Our usual closer, Santa, was not participating in any programming this year. Our opener is always the Ooltewah High School JROTC, Color Guard and Band. But they are not allowed to travel on field trips due to COVID-19.”
Many residents have expressed their disappointment in the cancellation of what would have been Collegedale’s 21st Spirit of Christmas parade.
Kathy Mueller has lived in Collegedale for the past 31 years and has attended every single parade since its start.
“It is a very big family event for us,” she said. “I have six kids and 18 grandkids. Even the family from Knoxville drives down to this event. We go hours ahead of time to save space so we can all be together. It is a sweet, wonderful time and a way to kick off the season’s festivities. I am not happy that it is canceled.”
On Sep. 21, during a Collegedale City Commission meeting, Collegedale resident Tonya Sadler asked the city to revisit the issue of the parade’s cancellation. Instead of canceling the parade altogether, she asked for innovation this year. She posted her full alternate event idea on the “Collegedale Today” Facebook page, a local news and lifestyle page that she facilitates.
“As soon as I read that the city had canceled the parade, my mind immediately jumped to a shorter neighborhood parade idea because so many local schools had done that for their graduating seniors,” Sadler said. “The idea would be to make the parade shorter (20 to 24 vehicles) that would drive through the subdivisions at night. Since candy couldn’t be thrown out because of previous executive orders that have now been rescinded, everyone would decorate their automobiles with festive holiday lights.”
Sadler worked during the parade previously as a Collegedale reserve officer and has taken photographs at the event for several years in her formal role as a public information officer for the Collegedale Police Department. She said her idea has not been adopted by city leaders.
“The city showed no interest in my proposal to save Collegedale’s long-standing tradition of our annual Christmas parade,” Sadler said. “In the Sep. 28 Commission Workshop, City Manager Ted Rogers noted that they are creating new Christmas traditions, but we already have plenty of new traditions. No one is interested in new Christmas traditions this year. After all that we’ve sacrificed in this pandemic, we want the familiar and the comfortable. We want the traditions we are used to.”
Although Collegedale will not be getting its Christmas parade this year, the Park and Recreation Department has other events that will be taking place in December.
According to Bennett-Hobek, the annual Candy Cane Quest will still take place on Dec. 5. Santa will make an appearance at the market on Dec. 6 to take socially distanced photos. And on Dec. 7, there will be a new event called “The Christmas Tractor Swing” at The Commons. More information regarding the Spirit of Christmas parade and the events planned for December can be found at the City of Collegedale’s Parks and Recreations website.