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City found workable Christmas parade solution

Saturday night’s Christmas tree lighting in downtown Natchez was a great example the most wonderful time of the year.

It also was a sad reminder of what a year it has been.

Approximately 200 people gathered at Commerce and Main streets Saturday evening beneath and around the darkened Christmas tree.

Tony Fields, accompanied on keyboard by Kejaun Hawkins, sang Christmas tunes, including “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” and “Mary Did You Know” before Natchez Mayor Dan Gibson joined them and asked the crowd to join in on singing “Oh, Christmas Tree.”

Then, Gibson led a countdown 5-4-3-2-1 and the Christmas tree was lighted.

It is a beautiful tree and is a sight to see now that it is lighted.

While it was great to see the crowd out on the streets Saturday night, the event was a stark reminder that COVID-19 is a danger.

Volunteers wearing masks walked through the crowd, carrying signs that reminded people to wear their masks and to keep a social distance of six-feet to lessen the chances of spreading COVID-19.

Dustin Hinkle, carried a camera throughout the event broadcasting it on Facebook live for all to see and what the video footage revealed was that too many people were not wearing masks, much less social distancing.

While attending the Christmas tree lighting ceremony was gratifying, it is sad to think the event could contribute to the spread of COVID-19 in our community.

Already, too many people are contracting the virus and over taxing healthcare and emergency response workers, as Gibson noted in his remarks to the crowd.

The next day, Gibson took to Facebook live to say that after reviewing the event, he had decided too many people were not following the proper protocols and said he had come up with a plan to make Saturday’s Christmas parade safer.

Instead of canceling the parade altogether, Gibson, working with Adams County Emergency Management Director Robert Bradford Sr., came up with a plan to hold a Christmas parade “in reverse,” Gibson said.

Instead of having people crowd the street corners and sidewalks to view the passing parade floats and entries, Gibson said the parade floats and entries will line the bluff side of Broadway Street and spectators can drive by in their vehicles to view the floats.

Gibson and Bradford found a Solomon solution to the problem of having a Christmas parade in the midst of COVID-19. It will be up to us, the citizens, spectators and community, to ensure the “parade in reverse” is a success.

That means following the rules, staying in our vehicles and not having contact with others.

COVID-19 numbers have been on the rise for weeks now, nationally, statewide and locally. Healthcare workers have been overworked since the beginning of the pandemic in March and now they are facing increased workloads with the rise in cases.

The last thing we need is more people to contract and spread the virus. People may not like wearing masks and socially distancing but those are our only options to curtail the spread of COVID-19. So wear your masks, maintain social distance, do not touch your face and wash your hands frequently.

If we follow those protocols we can, as Gibson said, “keep our economy open” and enjoy Christmas.

Scott Hawkins is editor of The Natchez Democrat. Reach him at 601-445-3540 or scott.hawkins@natchezdemocrat.com.

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