Contention reigns on Christmas parade plans

Audrey Gomez

Two parade permit applications were filed with the Sweet Home Police Department within half an hour of each other last week.

Both are for the Sweet Home Christmas Parade.

While the Sweet Home Parade Committee and the Sweet Home Chamber of Commerce have worked collaboratively on the project, as well as on the Sportsman’s Holiday Parade, for the past five years, a dispute has arisen concerning which group is in charge of the parade.

A group of community members formed the committee in 2010 when the chamber was going to cancel the Christmas parade.

Since then, there have been changes in the chamber board and leadership. Though the committee planned and executed the subsequent parades, the chamber covered insurance costs necessary to stage the event.

Both sides of the issue have written letters to the other in the past month about their roles in the parades.

After an accident during the Sportsman’s Holiday Parade this summer, the committee mentioned some revisions in its report to the chamber board.

In the report, committee members said the parade went well with the exception of an accident involving three vehicles. The committee decided to revise its rules to include a stipulation that participants maintain control of their vehicles.

In that same report, committee members also stressed their independence from the chamber: “Perhaps many of the current Chamber Board members do not realize that the Parade Committee is a separate entity only under the insurance umbrella of the Chamber.”

A month later, in a letter dated Sept. 1, 2015, committee members once again stressed their independence and said the group would not be partnering with the chamber on the Christmas parade.

They cited several reasons for that decision.

“The chamber began planning the Christmas parade without consulting the committee,” said Debbie Walvatne, committee chairwoman. “They began rewriting the parade application and rules and the rewriting left off the Parade Committee completely. They changed all the fees for the parade to as much as $35 for an entry for the upcoming Christmas Parade. They also took about $200 in fees out of our finances (and) that had never been done before.”

Chamber bylaws state “committees shall remain cost-neutral to the chamber,” said Katrina Crabtree, chamber director. “Funds are collected for events, costs paid and if any funds remain, they are put into the budget for the following year for that event.”

Crabtree said the chamber board contacted the committee with a plan to work together.

That plan includes having the Sweet Home Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center in charge of the parade, according to the letter which was delivered on Sept. 17 by Jeff Lynn, Sweet Home police chief and chamber board member.

Another change stated in the letter is that “board members voted to redefine and enforce chamber membership guidelines. To this end, the redefine includes person(s) wishing to serve as volunteers on chamber committees, or as board members.”

People who wish to participate must be chamber members, according to the letter.

“As fees are currently structured, company memberships included only the company principals, and so, cannot be held as umbrella memberships to all employees,” according to the letter.

While the letter was signed by all of the other board members, Lynn abstained because of a conflict of interest.

“It’s not fair for me to weigh in,” Lynn said. SHPD is in charge of approving the permit.

In the letter, the chamber board thanked the committee members for their contributions and acknowledged that their actions “likely saved the parade on several occasions.”

They apologized “for the actions of the chamber and its previous board for lack of leadership that (the committee) experienced in the past.”

The chamber board ended the letter by asking for a response by 4 p.m. on Sept. 21.

“We all chatted and decided there was no reason to respond,” said Sue Olson, committee secretary-treasurer.

Sgt. Jason VanEck will review the applications submitted by the different groups.

“I don’t anticipate having a problem with either one,” Lynn said.

He expects VanEck to be done with the review by Wednesday, he said.

“The hope is that we can find a way everybody can work together,” Lynn said.

It’s in the best interest of the community to function wholly, he added.