Parade float

Kilgore city officials and the Kilgore Area Chamber of Commerce made the decision Thursday to cancel this year's Christmas parade. Mayor Ronnie Spradlin said all sorts of alternatives were explored, but in the end, organizers couldn't get past the point that COVID-19 poses a danger, and a large crowd could be unsafe. Pictured here: a float built by Kilgore Public Library staff and Friends of the Kilgore Public Library in the 2019 parade, an award-winner.

It was a decision made after much discussion, but Kilgore’s Christmas parade has been canceled.

The Kilgore Area Chamber of Commerce and the city of Kilgore collaborate on the event each year — this would have been the 90th, following one of the largest ones ever in 2019.

But the risk, with COVID-19 apparently on the uptick in East Texas, was just too great, Kilgore Mayor Ronnie Spradlin said.

“We looked at all options,” Spradlin said, “doing drive by and alternatives, different things. But the logistics (of changes) and the threat of endangering participants was as much an issue as the (parade goers). We just felt like, much as we didn’t want to, it was the right thing to do.”

Thursday evening, Liberty City joined that mindset, canceling its own Christmas parade that had been scheduled for Sunday afternoon, December 6. It would have been the 33rd annual for Liberty City.

As for Kilgore, Spradlin, a native son of the city, said there were over 1,000 total participants actually on floats or cars, or in the parade a year ago, not to mention literally thousands lining the Kilgore streets.

When push came to shove, after it had been in discussion all week, the final decision was announced Thursday morning, including an announcement on social media by the chamber.

“Good morning, Kilgore,” the statement began. “After careful consultation with officials, some past participants, sponsors, and health professionals, and due to our concern for the safety of our citizens, participants, and volunteers, the Kilgore Area Chamber Staff, Board of Directors, and city officials has made the difficult decision today to cancel the 90th Annual Christmas Parade “Christmas in the Oil Patch,” scheduled for Tuesday, Dec. 1 at 6:30 pm.

“Following increased and overwhelming concerns about the COVID-19 virus, seeing a continuing surge in the number of positive cases and hospitalizations, it was agreed that hosting a large gathering of people is not the safest and wisest way to proceed during such an unprecedented situation," the statement said. "Our team is very disappointed that we are unable to hold our 90th Annual Parade but we know it’s the right decision based on the information we have today. We appreciate your support and look forward to hosting the best parade in East Texas next year on Tuesday, November 30th, 2021. We will use the same theme for next year, “Christmas in the Oil Patch.”

The message concludes that Chamber President and CEO Jill McCartney would field questions at her chamber e-mail, jmccartney@kilgorechamber.com.

Kilgore is just the latest to cancel; Longview did so last month.

“We are not planning to have the Christmas parade this year because I cannot think of any way possible that we could line the streets with thousands of people standing three and four rows deep and expect them to social distance,” Mayor Andy Mack said, at the time.

According to several Tyler-area media outlets, the Tyler parade is still set for December 5.

According to Associated Press reports, state health officials reported 7,841 COVID-19 patients were hospitalized on Tuesday, 373 more than on Monday, the most since early August and about double the hospitalizations of a month ago.

M. Roberts Media, a news group that includes the Kilgore News Herald, the Longview News-Journal and other East Texas-area papers, reported Thursday that COVID-19’s recent resurgence in Gregg County continued Wednesday as public health officials announced four new confirmed virus deaths in the county and 47 additional confirmed cases.

Regional health organization the Northeast Texas Public Health District, known as NET Health, reported the county’s confirmed deaths increased from 61 to 65. The number did not include 43 deaths for which coronavirus is the probable cause.

NET Health on Wednesday also reported Gregg County’s community spread level of COVID-19 remained at “substantial” with a seven-day rolling rate of new virus cases substantially higher than the previous week.

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