Publisher’s ink: What’s a parade without an ark?

By From page A4 | December 12, 2012

This is how you are to build it: The ark is to be three hundred cubits long, fifty cubits wide and thirty cubits high. — Genesis 6:15

Make a roof for it, leaving below the roof an opening one cubit high all around. Put a door in the side of the ark and make lower, middle and upper decks. — Genesis 6:16

I am going to bring floodwaters on the earth to destroy all life under the heavens, every creature that has the breath of life in it. Everything on earth will perish. — Genesis 6:17

(Everything on earth will perish … including this year’s Christmas Parade.)

Instead of the 40 days and 40 nights of rain, we endured just three. And with it came some downed trees, power lines and spotty power outages.

Before the Placerville ark could be constructed the rains ceased falling. But not before the community Christmas Parade was canceled. For 35 years the annual Christmas parade has captured the hearts of children and served as the impetus of collecting toys for under-privileged children.

According to past parade goers weather conditions of previous Christmas parades ranged from rain, snow, sleet and hail.

“One year the sleet was blowing sideways,” one parade judge informed me. “I lost the feeling in my hands and the paper ballots were soaking wet.”

Many in the community are still talking about the cancellation. Some are questioning why the parade wasn’t rescheduled for this past weekend when the weather was ideal. And speaking of weather conditions, how did all those Christmas trees lining Highway 50 get decorated during a Saturday morning deluge?

Placerville police Chief George Nielson made the ultimate decision to cancel this year’s parade. As rain continued the morning of Dec. 2, Chief Nielson deemed conditions were unsafe and made the unpopular call. The decision wasn’t an easy one. He waited until the last possible hour. For anyone in law enforcement and pubic safety — public safety always trumps risk.

But since this was the first year the city of Placerville took the reins of Santa’s sleigh — and decided to park it — many long-time parade goers and businesses are upset.

“This wouldn’t happen if the McIntire family was still in control,” one disgruntled parade participant informed me.

Of course the reason for canceling the parade boils down to liability. A high-ranking city official chastised me recently for accusing Placerville officials of being grinches.

“This is about liability!” he insisted while rearranging his ruffled feathers.

I know about liability. Every time we allow an organization use of the Mountain Democrat’s parking lot we require a minimum of $1 million of insurance coverage. And how much does the city carry for parades I wonder?

My coverage doesn’t include anything for people waiting in our parking lot the morning of the parade. Yes, we had folks standing around in the rain waiting to line up.

Of course, since the newspaper building was without power that morning, we were working our contingency back-up plan to produce the newspaper. The generator was operating, computers were in use, and our staff worked in limited lighting.

After 30 years in the publishing business I’ve never missed printing a scheduled edition of the newspaper. I had a newspaper building in Indiana struck by lightning, a tornado destroy part of our community in Missouri, and a tropical storm dump 22 inches of rain during a 48-hour period in Key West. Even with a foot of water in the newspaper office we still managed to print the newspaper.

Perhaps the biggest loss from the parade cancellation was the breaking of tradition.

The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade has been a New York City tradition for 88 years. I was born in New York City, so in 2000 I decided it was time for my family to experience this national holiday tradition.

We stayed in a hotel a half block from Broadway, woke up early to the sound of pounding rain, and I informed my wife I was going to stake out a spot for us to watch the parade. So there I was standing three deep in line two hours beforehand wondering if I’d ever see my family again.

As Bullwinkle floated by and the sounds of marching bands filled the air some guy in the front row pushed his umbrella up. “Get that umbrella down!” a gruff New Yorker standing next to me shouted. The guy with the umbrella obviously didn’t realize New Yorkers aren’t wimpy. They don’t tolerate any obstructions at their parade, regardless of weather.

There’s no telling how many residents with children planned on attending this year’s Christmas parade. I’d venture to say many were waterlogged after three days of rain. But for those die-hard parade goers with kids longing to see Santa Claus the show must go on. Well … maybe next year. The ark should be completed by then.

Richard Esposito is publisher of the Mountain Democrat. His column appears each Wednesday.

Richard Esposito

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