Real-life Grinches vandalize Dayton’s holiday floats; repair help needed

Over the summer, vandals tore up floats used in the lighted Children’s Parade during the annual downtown Dayton Holiday Festival.

Seventeen floats were damaged, with some needing plenty of repairs to be returned to usable condition in time for the upcoming festival, which will be held Nov. 29.

The Downtown Dayton Partnership is asking for the public’s help Saturday and a few other days in upcoming weeks to help rebuild the floats.

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The partnership wants to ensure the lighted parade takes place in a year marked by a series of dark chapters, including the devastating tornadoes and the deadly shooting rampage in the Oregon District.

“We decided that this is not the year, with everything this community has gone through, to say we’re not going to do a Children’s Parade or that it’s going to be a dramatically smaller or different parade,” said Sandy Gudorf, president of the Downtown Dayton Partnership.

Volunteers are needed Saturday between 9 a.m. and noon to tear down, strip, clean and prep the floats for the rebuilding process.

Volunteers are needed to remove paper, lights and debris at the Float Warehouse at 2331 McCall St. in Dayton.

Most of the 17 floats sustained some damage and a few are in “sad shape.” But officials say they can be salvaged with some TLC.

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The holiday festival is a special event to the community that was started in 1972 by Virginia Kettering to ensure that children from all economic backgrounds had a fun way to usher in the holiday season, Gudorf said.

It’s been a hard year, and it would be a shame to nix or scale back a central part of the celebration that brings joy to so many families, she said.

The nighttime parade occurs after the traditional tree lighting on Courthouse Square and features more than 100,000 sparkling lights.

Saturday is the first work day, but volunteers are going to be needed in upcoming Saturdays to help reconstruct the floats to get them ready for action, Gudorf said. The other work days are planned for Nov. 2 and 9.

The floats also need a new, long-term home, because their storage site is being redeveloped. The partnership needs about 10,000-square feet of donated or heavily discounted space.

The partnership also is accepting donations to help pay for the parade.

Dayton, somewhat unfortunately, is getting really good at responding to adversity and tragedy with support and generosity, Gudorf said.

“This community has such a big heart,” she said. “The response has been incredible.”

People can register to volunteers on the Downtown Dayton Partnership’s website. The event organizer, Jami Pack, can be reached at 937-224-1518.

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