I love a parade... Practically everyone does, and especially traditional hometown Christmas parades. Unless you’re talking about the 2012 Lake Wales Christmas Parade... This year’s parade has only brought me discouragement and disappointment.
For the second year in a row, the decision makers for the annual Christmas Parade have chosen a route that avoids downtown businesses on Stuart and Park Ave. I am one of those business owners who is working very hard to build a business that will help revive downtown Lake Wales as a place to visit and enjoy. We are very supportive of any downtown efforts to bring people to shop, dine and do business in the downtown area, extending our hours of operation to fit the events that happen downtown.
We had planned to be open this year during the Christmas Parade, thinking that the parade route had been changed to it’s original format, which traditionally had snaked its way through the entire downtown area. When it was changed last year we voiced our concerns to those who had influence and were assured that this year would be different. We were open last year, and it was a total bust.
Last year we were told that the reason the City did not want the parade in downtown is because of the new landscaping that had at that time been recently installed along Park & Stuart. This would make some sense if we were running a plant nursery in downtown Lake Wales, but we’re not! My point is simply this: When the rate of plant growth exceeds the rate of business growth in downtown Lake Wales, there will be no reason for landscaping of any sort! This year, we’ve been given the same excuse, though, not really... Let me explain.
I want everyone to know that before I wrote this letter to the editor, I emailed each Commissioner and the City Manager to voice my shock, surprise and disappointment at the decision. The aftermath has been even more discouraging than the discovery.
The only person who has emailed a response has been the City Manager, Terry Leary. None of the Commissioners have answered as of yet. I’m not offended by this, I’m sure they’re very busy people. What I have discovered and has been explained to me is a rather shameful dance and dodge. The City’s position is that Kiwanis’ application for the parade route is to blame...They set the parade route and the City just approves it. I’m very fond of the Kiwanis Club, but I really didn’t know that they had the authority to dictate the parade route to the City! Kiwanis has cited the landscaping as the reason. I’ve been told that a member of the City Commission has said that paid law enforcement presence was an issue and the parade route was changed to save money on parade expenses. Who knows? I’m waiting to hear someone blame it on “the video”! Here’s the bottom line... We need people in downtown Lake Wales to expose them to what we’re trying to do down here. Having the parade route pass by my business could be my only opportunity to expose my business to those who only wander into downtown once a year. Running a business these days is hard enough, it becomes significantly more difficult when you have to overcome the discouragement of careless decisions!