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Bad weather forces postponement of Renfrew Christmas parade

Renfrew's Santa Claus Parade, originally scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 3 was postponed until Dec. 10 due to strong winds and rain that swept through the area. 

Renfrew Mayor Tom Sidney made the difficult decision of postponing a much beloved and highly anticipated Christmas tradition of the town. 

Renfrew's Santa Claus Parade, originally scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 3 was postponed until Dec. 10 due to strong winds and rain that swept through the area. 

“It was certainly the right call we made on Saturday afternoon,” Mayor Sidney said. “It really came down to a question of health and safety and it was a decision that was not taken lightly. I guess you could call it my first real major decision since I was sworn in a couple of weeks ago. The only regret is that we could not have made a decision one way or another earlier in the day.”

The parade, which was scheduled to begin at 5 p.m. on Dec. 3, has become a staple in the community, attracting hundreds people and many visitors from all parts of the Ottawa Valley. 

One of the underlying problems in the world of social media is that inaccurate information can often spread faster than accurate information. By Saturday mid-afternoon, the parade became an example of how that can happen, and once inaccurate information is shared by hundreds, it cannot be reversed.

Shortly after 3 p.m. some popular Facebook sites with information about various events and activities in Renfrew began to populate with questions about the parade and many said it was cancelled due to weather conditions and some of those were local businesses preparing to enter a float in the parade.

Participants were asked to be in the staging area at St. Joseph’s High School near Barnet Boulevard around 4 p.m. so that everyone was ready to depart at 5 p.m. sharp. With no clear answer on whether the parade was going forward as planned, it became apparent that some type of announcement was needed before the scheduled start time.

A post on Facebook appeared around 4 p.m. notifying those online of the cancellation and encouraged the followers to share the information in the hopes of updating the previous decision to have the parade proceed.

One of Mayor Sidney’s campaign promises was to keep the public informed with accurate information as it became available. True to his word, shortly after it was agreed to postpone the event, he recorded a short video and it was sent out through various social media platforms.

Dressed in a suit jacket in an outdoor setting, the mayor notified the residents of the parade’s status.

“Hi to everyone in Renfrew, I am here to make an announcement that unfortunately due to the weather and high winds the town has decided to postpone the Santa Claus parade until next Saturday,” he said. “We feel the health and safety of the town is paramount and we don’t want to risk anyone getting injured. Although the status of the weather is unknown, we felt it best to postpone and we apologize for any inconvenience it might cause.”

When Mayor Sidney completed his broadcast from the grounds of St. Joe’s, a large branch suddenly snapped and fell to the ground not too far from the designated staging area for parade participants. In a telephone interview, Sidney said it was the right decision.

“Although the weather did not turn out to be as bad as we feared, we made the right call to postpone it,” he said. “It would not have been a positive experience to go to all that work and only have a small number of people lined along the streets. Community safety is our biggest priority and I am glad my first major decision as mayor turned out alright.”

However, the BIA has a big week ahead. Beginning this Thursday at 4 p.m. the downtown merchants will be hosting a Christmas Stroll on Raglan Street and most of them will remain open until 8 o’clock and the evening will feature many specials at the stores.

The Grinch’s Playground in Low Square, which also fell victim to the weather, will be set up on the grounds of town hall and from 2 until 5 p.m. The area will be filled with family activities until the parade begins. The award for the inaugural downtown Holiday Window Display Contest Winner will also be announced on Saturday around 6:30 p.m. in front of the library.

The parade will leave at 5 p.m. from St. Joseph’s High School, come up Raglan Street, then turn on to Munroe Avenue West and Lochiel Street South. Santa Claus will be at the library after the parade to greet children. Hot chocolate will be provided outside the library by staff and volunteers following the parade.

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