Thursday, December 19, 2013 10:30 PM
50 percent refunds OK'd for parade
By Rochelle Moore | Times Staff Writer
Organizers of the Wilson Christmas Parade will give 50 percent refunds to groups that paid entry fees for the parade that was canceled Dec. 7 due to the possibility of rain.
Susan Kellum, Wilson’s downtown development marketing and communications coordinator, sent an email to parade entrants Thursday night notifying them that they will soon receive a refund.
The decision was made by the Wilson Downtown Development Corp., which met Dec. 10 and voted to put some of WDDC money toward the refunds.
"This year, in the spirit of the season and because of the weather challenges, WDDC has decided to issue a 50 percent refund to all paid entries in the parade,” Kellum wrote.
The year’s parade was anticipated to have a large turnout with 118 entries. The refunds are being granted following a review of money already spent prior to the event. Costs included rented floats, marching bands, Santa, Sudan groups, signage, advertising, portable toilets and a parade coordinator, Kellum said.
"The parade is not a fundraising event,” Kellum wrote. "It is held as a service to the Wilson community and has been a self-supporting event that has minimal funds remaining after costs are paid.
"This year had the parade been held, fees would first be used to pay costs with any residual monies donated to the Wilson Chamber Young Leaders charity of choice.”
WDDC collected $4,950 in parade entry fees and spent $2,749, with the remaining $2,201 available for refunds. The WDDC budget will make up the difference and add $274 to provide the 50 percent refund.
In addition to the refunds, groups that rented floats this year will receive a discount if they participate in the 2014 parade because signage has already been prepared.
Some changes are in the works next year. A parade committee will be formed to plan the 2014 parade and anyone interested in organizing, planning and taking part can contact WDDC at email@example.com. The 118 participant groups from the 2013 parade will be surveyed and asked whether they would like the rain date policy to continue or if they would like it to change to a rain or shine policy.
"The WDDC Board of Directors will use input from the poll and from the parade committee to make decisions regarding the rain or shine policy and the refund policy for future parades,” Kellum wrote.
Some of the criticism about the cancellation of the 2013 parade came after Wilson received no rain the day of the event. Kellum said that there were just as many, if not more, positive remarks regarding the parade cancellation decision.
In her letter to entrants, she explained the process behind canceling the parade, which brought with it criticism from the public. Public officials, including Mayor Bruce Rose, expressed disappointment. Rose also said, a couple days after the parade date, that he planned to look further into the cancellation.
A 90 percent chance of rain during the hour the parade was planned to start led to the decision to cancel the event Saturday. The rain date was Sunday but more rain was predicted so the parade was canceled entirely this year. Trying to schedule the event the following weekend was not possible, either, she said.
"The logistics of a parade in a larger municipal area are more involved than those in smaller communities,” Kellum wrote. "Some have suggested that the rain date be a week later instead of the next day. Many of our participants, including bands and dance groups, have a multitude of other obligations especially as we get closer to Christmas and to the end of the calendar year.”
Parade volunteers are hesitant to obligate two weekends close to a major holiday and rescheduling Wilson police to work the following weekend would not be feasible, she said. The Wilson Christmas Parade and former Jaycees Christmas parades have included on the entrant application that there are no refunds.
"The ‘No Refunds’ policy has always been very clear on the parade application, mentioned once in the cover letter and twice in bold red and on both sides of the application and states: In the event our parade is cancelled due to inclement weather or if your entry is unable to participate, we will use your entry fee as a donation to one of our Christmas charities,” Kellum wrote.
At first, refunds were being considered for large groups that rented floats. That decision changed after the WDDC board met three days after the cancelled event.
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