Updated: Cold weather postpones Walla Walla holiday parade for one week

Two girls in Santa hats stand in the rain as a Richardson Excavating truck decorated as a Reindeer drives by during the 2012 Macy's Parade of Lights on Saturday.

Two girls in Santa hats stand in the rain as a Richardson Excavating truck decorated as a Reindeer drives by during the 2012 Macy's Parade of Lights on Saturday. Photo by Matthew Zimmerman Banderas.

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WALLA WALLA — Cold weather is putting a freeze on the annual Macy’s Parade of Lights scheduled for this weekend.

Organizers decided Thursday to postpone the parade for one week, when temperatures are expected to be more bearable.

The Downtown Walla Walla Foundation, which coordinates the parade, said participants were starting to pull out of Saturday’s downtown event as the already low temperatures are expected to drop further, with wind chill factors in the subzero range.

Milton-Freewater parade to go on as scheduled

Milton-Freewater’s Bright Lights Parade is expected to continue as scheduled Friday.

No changes are currently in the works for the 6 p.m. parade that moves from Henry’s Ace Hardware to Freewater Park, organizers say.

The parade will be followed at 7 p.m. with the Christmas tree lighting at Freewater Park. Cookies and hot beverages will be served. Santa and his Elves are expected to make an appearance, and local merchants will extend their shopping hours for the event. The “Christmas Magic in Milton-Freewater” event is put on by the Milton-Freewater Area Chamber of Commerce, the city of Milton-Freewater and Milton-Freewater merchants.

“The goal of the parade is to have people come downtown, and if you’re going to have a parade where no one can come downtown, what’s the purpose?” said Gina Grant Bull, the foundation’s events and public relations manager.

She said after careful consideration — “and lots of phone calls and emails” — the parade will be postponed until Saturday, Dec. 14. Temperatures then are expected to still be cold, but not dangerously so, she said.

“Over 5,000 spectators attend the parade each year and with the bitter cold that is forecast, Macy’s and (the downtown foundation) feel that postponing the parade is the right call to make for children, spectators, parade participants and animals,” she wrote in an official statement released Thursday afternoon.

In concert with the decision, the scheduled appearance of Santa Claus at Main Street toy store Inland Octopus as the capstone to the parade has also been postponed, store owner Bob Catsiff said. He said Santa will make his seasonal debut at the store after next weekend’s parade. He will also follow that with appearances Sundays, Dec. 8 and 15, 11 a.m.-4 p.m.; and Thursday, Dec. 19, 5-8 p.m.

The cold weather is also putting a damper on this weekend’s Downtown Holiday Farmers Market. The annual one-day holiday market at Fourth Avenue and Main Street has been canceled for this year, the downtown foundation announced Thursday.

News of the changes may have been a surprise to merchants preparing to accommodate crowds on what is typically one of the community’s biggest December weekends. With Holiday Barrel Tasting taking place in tandem with the parade, the annual Feast of Carols and shopping season in full swing, some merchants typically order extra inventory and food this time of year to serve the crowds.

Grant Bull said some of the groups planning to be in the parade this weekend indicated they will not be able to do it on the new date. But safety, she said, was an overriding factor.

Damon Burke, owner of Salumiere Cesario, was planning a fondue event around parade time as an attraction at the gourmet grocery he and his wife own on Main Street. Although he’s now postponing that event one week, he said the date change is a welcome switch given the conditions.

“I think it’s a much better idea to change it,” Burke said. “With that many kids in the parade, it’s downright dangerous that cold. To have people sitting outside for two or three hours on top of that — it’s dangerous if not just plain miserable.”

Grant Bull said as of this morning about six of the 60 parade entrants had withdrawn from the event, prompting organizers to reconsider.

The National Weather Service is calling for highs in the Walla Walla area between 11 and 16 degrees on Saturday. With winds coming through at 5 to 10 mph, the wind chill readings are expected anywhere from 14 below to 1 above zero in the morning. Low temperatures Saturday night are projected between 1 below to 4 above zero.

The change in schedule is one in a series of shifts for the parade this year.

Coordinators had already pushed back the start time an hour to 7 p.m. as one of several new safety measures.

The foundation this year plans to clear the parade route of parked vehicles and moving traffic along Main Street between Third Avenue and Palouse Street before the parade — a first for the 18th annual event.

Those changes came about as a response to an accident during last year’s parade. A girl participating in the event caught her heel under the wheel of a float and her leg was run over. The injury was reported as minor. Officials said she was walking too close to the float as crowds swelled beyond parked vehicles, driving parade participants in toward their entries.

Consequently, another change planned was the prohibition of candy and other handouts in the parade.

The start time and other new rules will all remain the same when the parade takes place Dec. 14.

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