Webster’s Holiday Parade - 2020 Style
A reporter’s perspective
Webster, NY - If you were one of the many, many cars in the long line down Salt Road this past Saturday waiting to pass through the revived Webster Holiday Parade, you were most certainly not alone.
The new, COVID-safe holiday parade was a grand success, rounding out to a ballpark number of 5,000 attendees - much more than the 3,800 who pre-registered.
This year, due to the pandemic, the original “White Christmas in the Village” and the classic “Parade of Lights” were canceled. But an idea introduced by young Klem North Elementary student Blake Richey gave NEQALS President/CEO Syed Ahmed Mustafa the motivation to reinvent the holiday parade - 2020 style.
Local businesses, organizations, and first responder agencies were invited to set up holiday displays of lights for this parade - similar to holiday parades of past. Only this time, these “floats” stood still as spectators took on the mobile role for a change.
It was a “Freaky Friday” type of event; those driving through were the featured stars this time, enjoying the sights from the perspective of a traditional parade float.
“This is all for them,” said Mustafa.
I arrived at the Xerox parking lot at approximately 3:30, which was smack dab in the middle of the one hour time frame dedicated to those with special needs. (As someone who has epilepsy, I commend the organizers for incorporating that consideration.) The rain had just lightened up, making it pleasant winter weather. (So at least early on, those standing outside by their displays weren’t too uncomfortable.)
For those first entering the parking lot, the holiday fun was instantaneous, as “the Grinch” welcomed them with his long, fuzzy fingers and grouchy expression. (Ironic how that brings such a smile to so many faces…)
From that point on, the sights were full of colorful lights and fun. People wore costumes, they danced, they played classic holiday tunes, and one display even blasted periodic spurts of fantastic flames. (Shoutout to RE/MAX for that much-needed aura of heat as the night progressed…)
The parade gave local businesses an excellent opportunity to connect with their community, as many places continue to struggle through the challenges presented by the pandemic.
I asked Sarah, business owner of Paws Up Luxury Dog Spa, what she thought of this year’s “reinvented” parade.
“It's a good idea,” she said, “especially this year. It's definitely better than not doing anything.”
Websterites weren’t the only ones eager to pass through this unique event. According to Mustafa, people were coming off Route 104 “to see what the fuss was about.”
If you need a clearer picture of how popular the event was: I was expecting my family (they were my ride, as I am without a mode of transportation at the moment) to pick me up at 5:30…
They couldn’t get to me until 8:15, due to the massive line of cars backed up waiting to enter the parking lot.
(Needless to say, I was quite the spectacle myself: freezing my toes off and looking away from the lights as often as I could to avoid any epileptic seizures… People started waving at me when they drove by.)
I had the pleasure of bumping into Monroe County Legislator Matthew Terp, who had a car display of his own as drivers left the parking lot, sharing a very jolly “Merry Christmas!” to all passersby. He and his whole family were there with their Santa hats on.
Terp expressed his gleeful approval of the event, observing how happy all the spectators seemed. He noted that it must be nice to enjoy the lights from the warmth of their cars.
“We’re the ones who are cold, not them!” he said.
I asked Terp how he thinks this year’s parade compared to past parades.
“I can’t really compare because it’s just different,” he said. “I think people are warmer.”
Mustafa was pleased with how the event turned out. Although he hopes COVID-19 won’t make the format necessary in the future, if they decide to orchestrate a similar format next year, "at least we know how to do it."
The best part of the night for me, personally (as I quickly downed a mug of warm SpaghettiOs in the car when my family finally picked me up), was as we were exiting the parade/parking lot and a group of firefighters were enthusiastically dancing to the holiday music and waving as we passed by. (And by that time, it was cold…)
That, my friends, is true holiday spirit.
Enjoy these photos of the 2020 Webster Holiday Parade!