The Lebanon Horse-Drawn Carriage Parade and Christmas Festival will not be held this year, contrary to previous COVID-19-sensitive plans for the popular holiday event, known to draw visitors from across Ohio and the U.S.
“In response to concerns that have been raised with accelerating COVID numbers both in Warren County and regionally, we have decided it is best to cancel this year’s Horse Drawn Carriage Parade. While we are extremely disappointed that we are unable to host this parade, we believe that not doing so will help prevent the spread of COVID-19, as well as protect the legacy of the Horse Drawn Carriage Parade & Festival for generations to come,” the Lebanon Area Chamber of Commerce said in a Facebook post Thursday.
The chamber still plans to hold the event on on December 4, 2021. “In the meantime, please stay safe,” the message concluded.
In September, the chamber announced that three parades, rather than the two traditionally held, would be held on Dec. 5 during this year’s parade and festival.
“Due to the COVID Pandemic, we will not be able to have our normal Carriage Parade and Festival. But we have developed alternate plans (that were approved by the Warren County Health Commissioner), so that we can still give our community and tourists a ‘Safe Holiday Tradition,’” a message on the Lebanon Chamber of Commerce website said.
The chamber was taking reservations for reserved-box seating for $200 for each parade on the route on both sides of Broadway between Main and Mulberry streets. Only 40 horse-drawn carriages were to join the parade procession. More than 100 register during a typical year. They shortened the parade route and took steps to reduce crowd sizes.
The parade is a revenue booster for local businesses, looked forward to by owners of horses and carriages in the parade, as well as tourists from across the U.S.
“It’s been a tradition for our city. It’s important for our business community,” Brewer said. “There are many people who are here from out of state. They put it on their calendars.”
The festival day is one of the five biggest at the Golden Lamb Inn, said Bill Kilimnik, Golden Lamb general manager and operating partner, and chamber board member.
“We decided to err on the side of extreme caution,” Kilimnik said of the cancellation decision. While hurting business and interrupting the tradition in the short term, the decision safeguards the city and parade’s image, he said.
Kilimnik also noted the commitment and hours of planning that went into preparation for the parade and festival, including in-kind funding from the city government to offset a dip in sponsorships.
“Views have changed since the planning started,” Kilimnik added, noting the festival is a week after Thanksgiving, when small-family gatherings could fuel outbreaks.
“I would hate for Lebanon to be Ground Zero. There definitely is heightened concern,” he said.