City Council Decides on Dexter Daze Holiday Light Parade

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Photo: https://www.dexterdaze.org/light-parade.html

| 2 min | by Doug Marrin |

At its special meeting held on November 30, 2020, Dexter City Council considered a permit request from the Dexter Daze Committee for the Dexter Daze Holiday Light Parade.

To promote public safety and comply with social distancing safety measures, the group proposed expanding the parade route significantly by wending the festive processional around Dexter's streets. The Committee also proposed further safety measures similar to those used for the Dexter High School graduates in their processional through town last spring.

  • Families would be encouraged to watch from their vehicles.
  • No walking or mingling along the parade route.
  • Adherence to all safety guidelines from the State Health Dept.

Despite the precautions, the Washtenaw County Health Department advised against the event. "At this time, the MDHHS order prohibits gatherings of 25 individuals outside, with no more than 20 per 1,000 sq feet for outdoor gatherings," said Environmental Health Director Kristen Schweighoefer in an email to the City.

Schweighoefer also noted that the order is set to expire on December 9. The Light Parade would take place on the 12th. The order, however, could be reissued, extended, or modified. "If this is the case, the individuals watching the light parade would likely exceed the 25 person outdoor gathering limit and the 20 person capacity per 1,000 sq feet," she said. "I also think this might be challenging to monitor. The application seems to address the vehicles but not those watching the light parade to ensure social distancing and gathering guidelines."

Councilmember Jamie Griffin opened the discussion saying, "This is a parade route that goes throughout much of downtown. I don't have concerns about people not willing to maintain social distance or do things in a safe way. I think it would be a nice festive event for the community that people could choose to participate in or not, depending on their comfort level."

Councilmember Julie Knight concurred, adding, "As I've said before, I hate to deprive all of our citizens of all the activities at the holiday time. And I agree with Jamie. I think people are so mindful of masking and distancing today that I don't think it'll be a problem."

However, other council members expressed concern over the City, permitting an event that could draw clusters of people.

"I do have concerns about this," stated Councilmember Wa Hubbard. "Maybe I'm less trustworthy about other people's behavior, but I am not sure that I would go so far as to say that I can personally support trusting other people to be mindful, just based on what I've seen out and about."

Using stats from Washtenaw County's website, Hubbard said that the Council had refused similar requests through the summer and fall when Covid cases in the area were significantly lower. For example, Apple Daze (typically held in October) was denied a permit when the 48103 zip code had three new cases. In the past two weeks, more than 85 new cases have been reported. She also pointed to other communities cancelling their winter parades.

Councilmember Paul Cousins has historically been a strong supporter of community events. But even he found it difficult to permit a public event at this time. Like Hubbard, Cousins reminded the Council that the Memorial Day Parade, Dexter Daze, and Apple Daze were canceled when the cases were significantly lower. While he agreed with Griffin that the parade route is long enough for people to spread out responsibly, there was no guarantee or enforcement that they would do that.

Student Representative Alex Gilbert also joined the discussion saying, "I feel like everyone's missed out on a lot this year…but nonetheless, I feel as if it's inappropriate for us to allow this to happen." He explained that "it doesn't feel right to be encouraging people to leave their homes when cases are still on the rise. It just doesn't seem safe for this to happen."

Mayor Keough concluded the discussion with, "I think at this time when so many people are trying to stay separated, and the fact that we just can't predict the number of people this would draw, I think we need to say, 'Let's do it next year.'"

The Council voted to deny the permit request.

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