Holiday parade in Walla Walla to start an hour later

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 — The Macy’s Parade of Lights will start an hour deeper into the evening this year.

Organizers will push the parade back an hour to better accommodate traffic and event changes in the name of safety.

The Dec. 7 parade will begin at 7 p.m. this year, said Gina Grant Bull, events and public relations manager for the Downtown Walla Walla Foundation.

The time change is a new addition to other adjustments made to this year’s parade.

The foundation last week announced that parking along Main Street between Third Avenue and Palouse Street will be cleared before the parade for the first time in the event’s almost 20-year history. The changes are sparked by an accident during last year’s parade.

The heel of a girl participating in the parade got caught under a 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.

Officials have also forbidden candy and other handouts from being distributed in the parade this year. With parking eliminated along only the most congested stretch of the route, organizers didn’t want to ban candy distribution on just certain parts of the route.

Grant Bull said this morning the changes are a compromise reached after about 20 hours of meetings between the foundation, the city of Walla Walla and the Walla Walla Police Department.

Options offered to downtown ranged from the current setup to no parade at all, with other options in between that Grant Bull said didn’t exemplify the spirit of the community event.

“Do we know it’s not perfect? Of course. But we’re really trying to keep the tradition going,” she said. Starting the parade an hour later is another compromise, she said.

Barriers to incoming traffic are expected to be put up along sections of Main Street several hours before parade starts as a way to eliminate parking along the route.

The parade happens to fall on one of downtown’s busiest holiday weekends. Holiday Barrel Tasting weekend is at the same time, drawing visitors from around the region for wine tasting. Streets and shops are also typically filled with shoppers.

Giving them an additional hour to shop and to clear out should help reduce effects to merchants, Grant Bull said.

A new $20 entry fee for float participants is being used to buy 50 sandwich-style “no parking” signs costing more than $30 apiece.

As a result of the changing time, parade participants will now line up at 5 p.m. Judging will be at 6 p.m. The parade starts an hour after that.

“We’ve tried to think of ways to make it easier for folks,” Grant Bull said. “It’s still going to be an awesome event.”

Vicki Hillhouse can be reached at vickihillhouse@wwub.com or 526-8321.

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