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Even before Thanksgiving, people were starting to drop out of the parade. Virtually all said that if the weather was going to be that bad, it was no place for their children. We understood, but told them that the parade would go on, rain or shine.

Cancelling is a tough call. People are disappointed and there is no guarantee that it won’t be stormy any week in December. And the practical side is that a parade costs the Downtown Napa Association and the city of Napa a lot of time and thousands of dollars, even if it gets called off.

To plan and pull off a second parade would cost more than we have. For those reasons, we wanted to go forward.

However, given the weather outlook Saturday morning, we wondered if taking that stand would potentially put people in danger. Up to then, cancelling had not been an option. But was holding a parade in that kind of weather a mistake? We needed more input.

We contacted someone with access to the Federal Aviation Administration weather forecasting model, generally regarded as one of the most sophisticated and accurate models in the country. The report was that very heavy ran would likely start at 2 p.m. and continue all night. There might be slight break around 5, but wind gusts would be in excess of 35 to 49 miles an hour. Other forecasters confirmed that outlook.

Another person we talked to said that wet children and 40-degree temperatures was a recipe for hypothermia.

Someone else pointed out that winds that strong could bring a float down on the children riding on it, or blast materials onto onlookers.

We made a total of eight calls – all ending with the advice to cancel. Given all that, even knowing that cancelling meant no parade this year, we had little choice but to call it off.

At 10 o'clock Saturday morning, we began to make phone calls to parade participants, volunteers and staff. Most of the people we called completely understood and supported our decision. Quite a few had already decided not to participate. Some were understandably disappointed. Only one person was mad.

Hosting the Christmas parade is a privilege, and the Downtown Napa Association has been honored to have done so for the past 25 years. But with that privilege comes the responsibility to put people’s safety ahead of all else. As disappointing as cancelling the parade was, given the conditions, we felt that it was the only thing to do.

Fortunately, Wednesday's well-attended tree lighting was a huge success, and there are other downtown Christmas events planned. Santa will be at the Goodman Library on Dec. 14, and First Street Napa on the 15th and 21st. The free, annual Tuba Christmas will be held at the Presbyterian Church on Dec. 7, from 2 to 4 p.m. The free Holiday trolley will run throughout downtown starting this Friday, Saturday and Sunday, from 3 to 6 p.m., until Christmas.

We’ll continue to host Christmas parades in the future, and invite all Napans to participate. Above all, Happy Holidays to everyone.

Craig Smith

Downtown Napa Association

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