OCALA, Fla. – The City of Ocala canceled its Christmas parade Thursday after the coronavirus pandemic showed no signs of getting better.
The city’s annual Christmas parade joins the lengthy list of events and celebrations that were forced to cancel over concerns from the coronavirus.
The event traditionally draws large crowds of more than 50,000 people lining Silver Springs Boulevard and more than 6,000 participants from Marion County Public Schools, community organizations and local businesses.
City leaders said that the area is seeing a steady increase in the percentage of people testing positive for the coronavirus during the past two weeks.
“Our volunteer committee is very disappointed that we are unable to hold this event as our goal each year is to create a diverse, community-wide event where people of all ages and socio-economic sectors of the community can come together in the spirit of good will and community,” leaders from the city of Ocala said.
According to officials, the decision was made after hours of discussion on whether or not to cancel the parade.
“The public, participants, law enforcement, and volunteers are always at the forefront of our planning and this decision was extremely hard to make, but public safety and responsible use of taxpayer resources must be a priority,” officials said.
Organizers said they will begin planning for the 2021 parade next spring.
“We look forward to seeing the smiles again as well as the friendly competition it fosters with the community float participants and bands,” officials added.
The decision to cancel the parade follows a recent decision by the Marion County School Board that restricted students and school groups from participating in the parade.