Ketchikan won’t have a traditional Fourth of July parade this year. That’s after the City Council declined to authorize the event traditionally put on by the local Chamber of Commerce.
Carrie Starkey is the chamber’s executive director. She said Tuesday that planning began in April as organizers brainstormed ways to conduct the parade safely during the coronavirus pandemic.
“We were pretty confident that we could safely perform the parade with social distancing measures and things like that for our float participants,” she said.
But local emergency officials said the parade itself wasn’t the problem — it was crowd control. They took issue with the chamber’s plans to limit the potential spread of COVID-19.
“When you’ve got thousands of people lining up on the street to watch the parade, how can we make sure that they’re social distancing? And how can we make sure that we track who’s there and where they’re at? And how can we make sure that they’re wearing masks and things like that?
According to a June 15 memo from Ketchikan’s emergency manager, Abner Hoage, the chamber’s board had “no desire to modify the plan” to address officials’ concerns. Without stronger measures to ensure that crowds followed pandemic precautions, Hoage recommended denying the permits necessary for the parade.
So Starkey says parade organizers went to plan B: a reverse parade, if you will.
“The big idea here is that we’re trying to encourage the community to decorate their homes, to decorate their businesses — you know, get everything decked out for the Fourth of July — and then their homes and businesses will kind of act almost as de facto floats,” she said.
The Chamber of Commerce will gather a list of decorated homes and businesses and post it online.
“Basically, a directory of where you can go if you want to get in your vehicle and tour around and see some of the decorations that are up and things like that,” Starkey said.
Organizers will also award prizes: most patriotic, most representative of Ketchikan, a people’s choice award, and the most on-theme — this year’s theme: “Hometown Heroes.” And in keeping with the heroes theme, Starkey says Ketchikan Pioneer Home staff and volunteers will be this year’s Grand Marshals.
Starkey asks residents and businesses interested in decorating for the reverse parade to the Chamber of Commerce at firstname.lastname@example.org by July 2 at 4 p.m. Judging will take place July 2 and 3 with winners announced on July 4. More information is available at the Chamber’s website.