Dalton Noon Lions Club President Octavio Perez says he and other club members have been getting plenty of questions about whether the annual Christmas parade in downtown Dalton will take place this year.
He said that after much deliberation, they have decided to go ahead with the 35th annual parade.
"It will take place on Thursday, Dec. 3, at 6 p.m.," he said. The parade will follow the traditional route. The theme is the "Wonders of Christmas."
Organizers of some other fall parades, such as the Dalton High School Homecoming parade and the Veterans Day parade, decided to cancel this year's events because of concerns about the new coronavirus (COVID-19).
Perez said that no one wants to minimize the impact COVID-19 has had on the community. But the Christmas parade is an event that brings cheer to the community. It also supports the Lions Club's charities, which are more vital than ever in these difficult times.
"It is our only fundraiser," he said.
The Dalton Noon Lions Club and the Dalton Lions Club earlier this year joined forces to distribute 1,450 boxes of food to families in need.
The Lions Club may be most famous for its work with those with vision problems, providing free eyeglasses and even surgery.
Perez said that every dollar they collect goes back to the community.
He said with that in mind, people should practice caution.
"If you are sick, don't come to the parade," he said. "If you have concerns, don't come. And if you do come, wear a mask and try to maintain distance from others."
City of Dalton Communications Director Bruce Frazier said parade organizers and attendees are expected to follow U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines on how to reduce their exposure to COVID-19. CDC and state guidelines urge people to wear masks and for individuals and households to maintain at least 6 feet of distance from one another.
"The city urges anyone who plans to attend the event to maintain social distance from any other people who aren’t from their household and to wear masks while at the event," Frazier said.
Downtown Dalton Development Authority Interim Director George Woodward said the parade permit is contingent on the organizers meeting Gov. Brian Kemp's executive order guidelines on social distancing.
"We will see if there are more restrictive guidelines or executive orders coming prior to the scheduled event," he said. "At this juncture, however, it is in the hands of the Lions Club to assess the risks and exercise their best judgment."
Dalton City Council member Derek Waugh said that as long as parade organizers are following state and federal guidelines it should be up to individuals to decide whether to attend.
"If you want to go, go," he said. "And if you don't want to go, don't go."
Those interested in entering a float should call Perez Monday through Friday at (706) 218-7913, Wendy Conner Monday through Friday at (706) 370-4186 or Rick Pippin Monday and Tuesday at (706) 278-1712. The cost is $40 per float.