Date change for Exeter's Holiday Parade gets icy reception

By JASON SCHREIBER
Union Leader Correspondent
October 02. 2018 11:55PM
Some people aren't happy with plans to change the date of the Exeter Holiday Parade. (Courtesy photo)

EXETER — A change in the date of the annual Exeter Holiday Parade has some residents and members of the local business community saying “Bah humbug.”

The 60-year-old parade that winds through the downtown has traditionally been held on the first Saturday in December, but this year it was moved to Dec. 8 — the second Saturday.

The change was requested by Darius Thompson, the parade’s longtime managing director who has a wedding to attend for a military service member in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 1.

Thompson informed Town Manager Russ Dean and the select board in July that because of the wedding he wouldn’t be able to attend this year if the parade were held on the first Saturday.

He outlined many of the key roles that he plays to pull off the parade and told the board that this is the only year that it would have to change and that next year it would return to the first Saturday in December.

But the change isn’t sitting well with some people, including parade committee member Beth Dupell, a local business owner who helps plan many events designed to bring people to the downtown area.

Dupell, who opposes the change, told the select board Monday night the committee never agreed to ask for the date change before Thompson submitted a permit application requesting the board approve Dec. 8 as the new date.

The committee’s first meeting will be held on Oct. 9.

The board recently OK’d the permit, but some members are now expressing concerns after hearing from business owners and others who feel that moving the parade to the second Saturday could have a negative impact.

Because the parade closes part of the downtown and other streets to traffic and prohibits some parking, some business owners insist that holding it later in December will hurt them because it’s their busiest time for the holiday shopping season.

“It just doesn’t work for a number of merchants and I didn’t think about that. I didn’t think about what else goes on. I didn’t think about how it affects the downtown and I feel that we are involved in making sure that the town is economically viable and this plays into that,” select board member Kathy Corson said.

Changing the date also means the parade would be held on opening night of Prescott Park Arts Festival’s “A Christmas Carol” at the Exeter Town Hall. Some people said the road closures would disrupt that event as well.

Dupell also said she’s worried that many families who know when the parade is traditionally held each season and plan their schedules around it wouldn’t get the message that it’s been changed and that children would be left disappointed.

“I don’t want to get those calls,” she said.

The Exeter Area Chamber of Commerce also opposes the date change.

Margaret Demopoulos, president of the board of directors for Exeter Fine Crafts, told the select board that changing the date would have a significant impact on the 200 craftsmen represented by the downtown gallery.

“The second weekend is one of our most critical sale days, and if you decide to move the parade to that day you’re going to effectively put people out of business,” she said.

Because the parade committee isn’t a town board, the select board’s only authority is to approve or deny a permit to hold the event. The board agreed to revisit the permit application after the committee discusses the concerns at its meeting on Oct. 9.


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