By Debbie Adams
For decades, the Vinton Area Chamber of Commerce and the Town of Vinton have collaborated to sponsor a Christmas Parade each year to celebrate the season, to highlight local businesses, to showcase local talent and officials, and to draw crowds of visitors to the town. The parade is always scheduled for the first Thursday after Thanksgiving to be the first in the valley and a kick-off for the holiday season.
This year, when it became evident early on that the traditional parade on Washington Avenue and through the streets of downtown would not be possible due to the pandemic, the Chamber and the town came up with an alternate plan—a Vintage Vinton parade in reverse. The floats and other units were to remain stationary while spectators drove past.
About two weeks ago, with an increase in COVID-19 cases in the area and throughout the state and the subsequent change in CDC and Virginia Department of Health guidelines, that reverse parade plan was also jettisoned.
“This was a very hard decision,” said Angie Chewing, executive director of the Chamber. “While we were hopeful we could host a parade in 2020, the board came to the realization that it was necessary to cancel the event considering the governor’s recent executive order limiting public gatherings and the ongoing uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus pandemic.”
Instead, the Chamber of Commerce, the town, the Vinton Police Department, Public Works, the Vinton Moose Lodge, and the Sassy Sisters of the Moose elected to hold a parade through the Vinton neighborhoods on December 8 for the sole purpose of brightening the spirits of town residents, especially the children.
The parade—actually three parades traveling three separate routes through the town—was dubbed the “Santa Claus Crawl.”
Two Public Works trucks were festooned with Christmas trees and seats for Santa and Mrs. Claus in the back. The Vinton Moose brought Santa’s sleigh for the trip through town, towed by the Grinch. The Vinton Police and more Public Works trucks provided an escort on each route.
Elves (members of Vinton Town Council, Moose volunteers, and town staff) traveled with all the Clauses to distribute 750 coloring books, 500 boxes of crayons, candy, and Christmas trinkets to children who stood at the curbs near their homes.
The parade had been publicized on social media, with maps of the route, to inform residents of the new parade plan. The reaction was magical and heartwarming. Children of all ages came out delighted to see Santa. Many adults waved from their windows, as the parade announced its presence with sirens, honking horns, and waves.
Vinton Mayor Brad Grose’s wife Debby and daughter Amanda Fullen stopped the parade in their neighborhood to offer hot chocolate to those in the vehicles—on a night of below-freezing temperatures. Public Works provided small heaters to keep the Clauses warm. Handwarmers were abundant.
The Santa Claus Crawl was another grand idea and great success, put together by dedicated Chamber and town staff and generous volunteers with enormous effort and coordination.
Throughout the pandemic crisis, the Chamber and the Town of Vinton have proved themselves resourceful, innovative, and more than willing to think outside the box when plans had to be altered, always with the community and the quality of life in Vinton in mind.