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Interrupting a tradition: Glows parade cancelled

FAIRMONT — For the past 30 years, the annual Fairmont Glows parade has been a local holiday tradition. In spite of snow, rain, sleet, and frigid temperatures, the parade unfailingly drew hundreds of people each year who enjoyed the sparkling and illuminating kickoff to the holiday season.

Until this year.

Like almost all other special events, as well as routine happenings, the Glows parade, which was to be held Friday, has been canceled due to COVID-19.

The Glows parade is sponsored annually by the Fairmont Area Chamber of Commerce, and the ultimate decision about the fate of the event landed squarely on the shoulders of Ned Koppen, Chamber president, but he did not make his choice lightly.

“I reached out to Chamber board members and others, not to have them tell me what to do, but to get their thoughts and opinions,” he said. “Everybody was pretty much on the same page and confirming what I was thinking.

“As much as I hated to make that decision to cancel, it was the right thing to do this year, in this climate, to just make sure that everybody’s safe.”

Koppen said he had attended almost every previous Glows parade and recalled how people were packed together along the parade route. Even though the event is outdoors, hundreds of people would have been crammed together, some with masks and others without.

“The way things currently are in our community and the state and the nation, with the rising number of COVID cases, we felt it was most important to take as many precautions as possible. We felt that canceling it was the appropriate thing to do,” Koppen said.

Even without the Glows parade’s traditional holiday kickoff, Koppen reminded people of the importance of shopping local and supporting community businesses.

“From the start of COVID, it’s been a giant challenge for all of our retail businesses, our bars, and our restaurants and all of our small businesses,” he said. “I think it’s a testament to what good business people we have in our town that they have found ways to continue to serve us, to make sure we could still shop, to find alternative ways to deliver. They have found ways to stay viable and continue to serve all of us that depend on them.”

Whether it’s a sponsor for a T-ball team, an ad for a school yearbook, or a donation for one of the many fundraisers held in the area, local businesses always are asked for help.

“They get hit up to donate all the time, and they give all the time,” Koppen said. “A lot of activities for our kids would not happen without our small business sponsors.

“Amazon is not funding those things. It’s all our local businesses that do that, and we should do everything we can to support them because they’ve done a lot to support us. Now it’s our turn.”

Canceling the parade still weighs heavily on Koppen even though he made the decision a week ago.

“I feel like I canceled Christmas. It just made me sick to my stomach, but it was the right thing to do,” he said.

“Everybody wanted to have it. Everybody wanted to celebrate, and yet we really haven’t had a lot of negative backlash. I think people understand that the Chamber is just doing the best we can to keep people safe.

“If we do the right thing today and we get healthy somewhere in the near future, we will come back and have a better than ever Glows parade in 2021. That will be a great thing.”

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