BERLIN — Despite a changing of the guard, the Berlin Christmas Parade will be as strong this year as ever before, according to Mayor Gee Williams.
Earlier this week, the town officially accepted the reins for running the parade from the Berlin Lions Club, which has been sponsoring the event for about three decades.
“I had been told many months ago that [the Lions Club] might not be able to do it this year,” said Williams.
Lions Club President Rick Holland confirmed that the organization won’t be able to host the parade for the first time since the early 1980’s.
“The Lions Club no longer has the manpower to staff the parade,” he said.
There shouldn’t be any trouble handing over the torch to the well-staffed town, however, and no disruption to the event, said Williams.
“If nobody knew, hardly anybody would notice,” he said of the transition.
The parade did start as a town event, continued Williams, and was simply taken up by the Lions Club in the early 1980s. He described the parade as completing a “natural life cycle.”
While some accusations that the town took over the event have surfaced, both Williams and Holland asserted that the transition was the decision of the Lions Club and was in no way pressured by the town.
“We were perfectly content with the Lion’s Club continuing for as long as they wished,” said the mayor.
During the transition, Williams added that the Lion’s Club has been “extremely helpful” in supporting the town’s assumption of responsibilities. The town council set aside a budget of $4,000 Wednesday to help cover parade expenses such as judges’ fees and trophy costs. The actual cost of the event is likely less than the amount budgeted, however, with Holland confirming that it typically runs from $2,000 to $3,000. Berlin is also hoping to elicit donations from town businesses that should cover a portion of the costs.
One small hiccup that the parade may encounter is diminished involvement from the Berlin Fire Company (BFC), which released a statement that conflicts with the town, which resulted in the town yanking $600,000 worth of funding, has left the BFC unable to afford to participate in the parade in a major way.
“Despite our budget problem, the Berlin Fire Company has committed to providing a vehicle for Santa and one additional vehicle in the parade,” the statement read.
Even with diminished support from the BFC, Williams was confident that the town will be able to pull off a memorable parade.
“This is an event we do to promote the spirit of the community and the spirit of the season … It’ll be as good as always,” he said.