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Wheeling officials express ‘cautious optimism’ for parade

WHEELING — The Wheeling Area Chamber of Commerce is continuing with plans to welcome Santa and the Christmas season this year to downtown, even though the coronavirus pandemic poses a Grinchly threat on the holiday season.

The biggest challenge to this year’s Main Street Bank Fantasy in Lights Parade could be the availability of school bands, whose students may be prohibited from gathering and practicing this fall, said Delegate Erikka Storch, R-Ohio, also president of the Wheeling Area Chamber of Commerce.

The chamber plans for the parade throughout the year, and already is considering how it could be affected by the pandemic.

Applications to participate in the parade won’t become available until September, she said.

The parade typically takes place the Friday prior to Thanksgiving, which this year would place it on Nov. 20.

“We’re proceeding with cautious optimism,” Storch said. “The biggest driver could be the schools, and their abilities able to participate. We have to think about bands and participants on the floats, and if anybody has to be bused downtown.

“Some of the schools bus their students. The busing regulations — and what those are looking like — we’ll have to take that into consideration.”

Social distancing among parade watchers isn’t as big a concern for parade organizers, as the parade route is long enough to accomodate the number of expected spectators.

The parade route kicks off near West Virginia Northern Community College on Market Street, then proceeds up Market Street to 10th Street, where it turns to Main Street and marches back toward 16th Street.

“People are pretty packed on Market, but there is plenty of room on Main where they can spread out,” Storch said. “We will encourage them to social distance as much as possible. If people have interest in maintaining social distance from others, they can do it.”

Past parades have seen the chamber set up bleachers along prime spots on the route and sell tickets to sit there.

“We have been having some discussions as to what the sale of the bleachers will look like,” she said. “As far as for families … blocking off a row so they can sit together….

“We’re still hoping we can still have a parade to kick off the holiday season, but it is important we also take into consideration the issues and do it responsibly.”

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