ROCKLAND — When Jen Chapman approached Rockland City Council for permission to hold a small non-moving parade in the Industrial Park this summer, Council volleyed with a request for bigger and grander, with more parking options, and easier accessibility by people without vehicles.
“I’m perfectly willing to vote for this to be in the Industrial Park,” said Councilor Ben Dorr. “But I agree with Sarah [Councilor Austin] that you should just close the streets down and drag this right Downtown. Get 50 floats on Main Street. Close it all down. Let’s celebrate. Make some popcorn. Let’s go.”
Following Chapman’s request during the June 7 agenda-setting meeting, Council has tasked Chapman with determining dates, gauging participation interest, and finding sponsorship to cover the permit that might – like the Lobster Festival Parade it was meant to replace on a smaller scale – shut down Main Street for a few hours this summer.
Chapman, who has organized the Lobster Festival Parade for approximately 12 years, admitted to Council of the heartbreak she feels in the non-Parade void that’s usually filled with a 1.5-mile, 1.5 hour-long annual march of floats and people.
“I just felt like something was missing,” she said.
Her consolation was to find a few participants who’d be willing to park their floats along Gordon Drive, in the Industrial Park, and invite vehicular traffic to inch past. Council is aiming higher.
“I think there’s a lot of pent-up energy from last year, not just to see a parade, but to have a parade, to be a parade….I would not be surprised if you get a lot of support for that,” said Mayor Ed Glaser.
Glaser suggested incorporating Lobster Festival volunteers who might be looking for activities to volunteer for.
“When you were a kid in Rockland – when I was (though I was only here in the summers) – this was the only parade I ever really went to,” said Glaser. “That parade is an incredibly important thing, I think, for the community.”
Chapman had originally suggested the Industrial Park since Gordon Drive would be big enough for five participants or 50 participants. Parking 50 floats along the loop at Harbor Park might not be feasible, she said.
A second benefit is in the limitations of the location and parade type. If pandemic restrictions for outdoor activities were to reverse again, Chapman doesn’t want to have to scramble and re-plan at the last minute.
“Keeping the floats spaced apart, people in their own vehicles safe, I just thought this would be something fun and safe at the same time, for us to have for Rockland,” she said.
Also, the Industrial Park site does not require closing roads, (Main Street closures not only affect Main Street, but also every cross street that connects to Main), and therefore would eliminate the need for Fire/EMS, and police detail – at a (potentially) $800 fee. A fee waiver, according to Councilor Louise McLellan-Ruf, is not an option in her mind. That waiver is for nonprofits such as New Hope For Women, she said. New Hope is requesting use of the Flanagan Center for a weekend fundraiser sale August 17 - 22.
Without a fee waiver, without sponsors, float participants not only must pay for their floats and decorations, but would also have to contribute to the costs of permits.
Not that Council believes that sponsorship would be an issue.
“Think about grander” said Glaser.
After gauging participant interest and fee requirements for each feasible location, Chapman will return to Council with a more concise plan, with the Industrial Park option remaining as a contingency plan.
“I am super excited about the thought of being able to close down all of the streets and have a giant parade,” said Chapman.
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