OAKLAND — The town of Oakland is moving forward with plans for next month’s 54th annual Autumn Glory Grand Feature Parade, despite other groups canceling events surrounding the festival because of rising COVID-19 cases in Garrett County.
The parade is scheduled Oct. 16. During a Tuesday meeting, the town’s mayor and council agreed to proceed with the event with coronavirus precautions in place.
The decision comes after the Garrett County Chamber of Commerce decided to cancel the Autumn Glory Kick-Off Reception and Dinner scheduled for Oct. 13 and the Oct. 16 craft and gift sale. The Oakland Volunteer Fire Department canceled the Fireman’s Parade and Oktoberfest scheduled Oct. 14.
A number of factors went into the chamber’s decision to cancel, said Andrew Fike, chair of the Garrett chamber, one being the board had an event earlier in the summer where someone tested positive after having people in close proximity, and also how last year’s craft show turned out.
“Last year, we averaged maybe 11 cases of COVID-19 all year until right after Autumn Glory and then it shot into the 100s. We got so much negative publicity about being a superspreader (event) and all this,” he said. “I told the chamber board, vote however you want to vote, but understand, from my perspective, if I’m going to have somebody yell at me, it’s going to be because I erred on the side of caution and safety.
“It was tough, man, we know how many people it brings. I can’t run that staff back into a craft show and make them work after last year.”
However the Turkey Trail, which shows the location of the places having turkey dinners, and the Fall Foliage Driving Tour, which the chamber puts on, will take place.
Nicole McCullough, Oakland’s business coordinator, said the town took over planning the parade from the Chamber of Commerce in April.
“It’s Oakland’s first rodeo with it,” she said.
“We thought of the parade as being one of the big events that comes to Oakland that benefits all the businesses. It’s the one event that can really boost Oakland with tourism. That being said, it’s our first year doing it; that kind of played into our decision to keep it. We don’t want to drop the ball on it.”
McCullough said town officials hope the parade can grow in the future, and already have “a decent amount” of applications for this year’s event.
She said emphasis will be placed on mask wearing when social distancing cannot be achieved and when visiting local businesses, but the town will not mandate it. Hand sanitizing stations will be set up around town.
A spokesperson for the Garrett County Health Department said the department was not consulted regarding the parade, but attendees should wear face masks and social distance, as the county is currently experiencing high transmission of the coronavirus.