OMG! WTF, PGE Festival of Lights? Salem was shaken by news that the annual lights parade was canceled due to the economy – it’s taking a “parade-cation.”
Organizers said that they are looking forward to the recovery and the return of the event on December 10, 2011.
“Let us continue our tradition as the largest lighted holiday parade west of the Mississippi,” they released in the statement. As it works out, the tradition is actually no longer a tradition. But that’s not the only problem.
How about last year when the parade was unable to find sponsors and had to be bailed out by the City of Salem? Why didn’t Salem’s city councilors gain a sponsorship credit? $25,000 should count for something, right? And that price is not an exaggeration.
According to a Transient Occupancy Tax report prepared in January 2010, losses of the 2009 parade were $28,000. The City of Salem on Mayor Taylor’s motion, which passed unanimously, gave the parade a $25,000 grant. That was in addition to the $7,500 in funds given by the city’s Transient Occupancy Tax grants.
A private organization runs the parade. They find sponsors like Salem Area Chamber of Commerce and PGE, but even with those major sponsors they still needed the city to bail them out in order to continue the tradition last year. And this year, that investment was for naught.
The parade has not been without criticism for its run. Like when candy throwing was banned and the audience decided instead to throw candy at the floats. Or businesses that complain about being stuck between the parade route, with no way to leave and no way to make money. Sure, business might be good if you are selling hot chocolate in front of the parade, but how about the businesses stuck in the middle? Add in the environmental impact of having a bunch of big trucks rolling around with lights strapped to them.
And about that $25,000, how many non-profit organizations could use an extra $25,000 in their budgets? What could organizations like Family Building Blocks do with even $5,000? How many families could Marion/Polk County Food Share feed with that money?
Chuck Bennett, when interviewed by Salem Weekly during his mayoral campaign brought up the light parade, said: “This mayor [Janet Taylor] has moved the City Council to support a light parade. I’m sorry, if that can be sold, I can sell supporting children that are hungry. That’s the power of the mayor.”
What it really comes down to is an electric company being the named sponsor in a festival of lights parade is ridiculous. Even more ridiculous is that said electric company and the rest of the corporate sponsors can’t find the money to make the parade happen. Worse yet is that $25,000 hasn’t kept a tradition going, it’s just delayed the inevitable. OMG! WTF, PGE Festival of Lights parade?