For the first time since it began in 1937, the Owensboro-Daviess County Christmas Parade, scheduled for Nov. 21, has been canceled.

Blame the coronavirus pandemic.

A statement from the parade’s volunteer board of directors said, “After careful consultation with officials, some past participants, sponsors and health professionals and out of concern for the safety of our citizens, participants and volunteers, the volunteer board of directors has made the difficult decision to cancel the 2020 Owensboro-Daviess County Christmas Parade.”

The parade, which stretched more than a mile long, had attracted an estimated 20,000 or more people to Second Street to watch in recent years.

And that made social distancing impossible.

The statement said, “We are more than devastated. We tried every option. The additional expenses — increased insurance costs, fewer sponsors, more portable restrooms and guaranteed cleaning/PPE equipment — also played into the decision.”

The committee added, “While we will not be hosting the parade as we know it, we are very excited to report that we are in communication with some very special organizations in order to partner together with them to help our community celebrate the holiday season. We will announce how our holiday partnerships will look and how families can celebrate with us in the weeks to come once those partnerships are finalized.”

The statement said the committee will begin planning in January for the 2021 parade.

In 1965, the parade was almost canceled in favor of something called, “Santa’s Rocket Ship.”

But at the last minute, Jaycees came to the rescue, after an outcry from concerned parents and children, and managed to pull together 30 to 40 units for a parade that year.

The Owensboro Christmas Parade was always the first Christmas parade in Kentucky each year.

It also claimed the title of being Kentucky’s second-largest parade — behind Louisville’s Pegasus Parade.

The parade began on Thursday, Dec. 2, 1937.

By 6 that night, thousands of people — said to be the largest crowd ever for a local parade — had gathered downtown.

Santa Claus circled the city in a lighted airplane and then headed for the airport, then on Daniels Lane.

All Christmas decorations in the city remained dark until 7:30 p.m. when a blast from every factory whistle in the city signaled the beginning of the Christmas season — and the start of the parade.

More than 100 units, led by the Owensboro High School band, marched through downtown.

After nearly 40 years as a morning or early afternoon event, in 1990, the parade switched back to a night parade, because people preferred lighted floats.

In 2008, the parade saw another change.

After 35 years of marching north from Ninth and Frederica streets and winding through downtown, the parade moved to Second Street only.

Keith Lawrence 270-691-7301, klawrence@messenger-inquirer.com

Keith Lawrence 270-691-7301

klawrence@messenger-inquirer.com

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