Exeter won’t be holding its traditional holiday parade this year, but don’t despair.
A parade will still be held, but it’ll be in reverse thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.
While the popular parade usually features floats, marching bands, Santa and other participants making their way through a brightly lit downtown in Norman Rockwell fashion, a celebration is planned this year that will allow spectators to drive through the high school’s parking lot to check out festive vignettes.
The select board this week gave the green light for organizers to hold the “2020 Drive-Thru Holiday Celebration” at Exeter High School on Dec. 5 from 5 to 8 p.m.
“Unfortunately, the pandemic makes organizing and executing a traditional holiday parade almost impossible. As a result, our volunteers have been hard at work devising an alternative celebration for the community, young and old, to enjoy,” parade organizer Beth Dupell told the select board at Monday’s meeting.
Exeter’s decision to hold some version of a parade comes after several other communities around the state canceled their parades.
Dupell, an Exeter business owner, described the event as a “reverse parade” that will meet pandemic-related safety guidelines.
She said the celebration will be stationary with no floats and marching bands participating.
“When outlining this concept, as much as we would have liked to have held this event in the downtown area, near the bandstand or Swasey Parkway, it was clear that the potential traffic would prohibit this. The Exeter police and fire department agreed and alternative locations were identified. We are extremely grateful that the SAU 16 school board has agreed to let us hold this 2020 parade celebration on the high school campus,” Dupell said.
The high school offers easy access in a less traveled part of town and provides for more adequate spacing for social distancing, she said.
The vignettes will be created by families, small business owners and parade volunteers.
Dupell said the number of participants constructing the vignettes will be limited to adhere to COVID-19 guidance.
“As much as we are going to miss the spirit and the enthusiasm of our past float participants, this just isn’t the year to have groups of adults and children assisting with the preparations,” Dupell said.
Masks will also be required of all parade volunteers and participants with the possible exception of Santa Claus.
James Murray, the town’s health officer, has signed off on the plan.
“I think it looks really good,” he said.
As planning gets underway with just a few weeks to go, parade organizers have put out a call for donations of artificial trees of all shapes and sizes, colors and conditions.
They may be looking to borrow generators and extension cords as well, Dupell said.
Anyone interested in donating is asked to email email@example.com or message the volunteers through the parade’s Facebook page.