AMELIA, Ohio — An Ohio village's Christmas parade has been canceled amid concerns over possible lawsuits, expected protests and logistical problems.
Mayor Leroy Ellington said yesterday that the Amelia Business Association, which sponsored the parade for the past few years, backed out and that more problems emerged when the village council considered sponsoring the nearly 30-year-old parade. The village solicitor told council members that the village could be sued for using public money for an event linked to celebrating the birth of Jesus, Ellington said.
When the village hoped to avoid problems over the constitutional issue of separation of church and state by changing the Christmas parade to a "holiday" parade, that drew angry responses from residents.
"We received e-mails and letters from people who were upset at taking Christmas out of the name, but that wasn't why we canceled the parade," Ellington said. "The bottom line is that we don't have anywhere to start the parade or end it and no one applied for a permit. We could call it anything, but we still couldn't put it on unless we could get past the logistical hurdles."
Ellington said the parade in the village of about 3,500 would have included 75 floats, marching bands and other participants.
Some churches have said they would protest if Christmas was omitted from the name, and a local church withdrew permission to use its parking lot as a staging area, he said. Nearby Pierce Township, where the parade usually ends, wouldn't close part of the state highway out of liability concerns, increasing logistical problems, Ellington said.
"Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but this whole thing is getting so distorted by the religious angle," he said. "It's a matter of not being able to accommodate a parade from a safety angle. We changed the name to a holiday parade so the tradition could continue and to avoid the financial burden that would be placed on residents if someone sued."
Bob Hurst, president of the Amelia Business Association, said that group didn't have the necessary volunteers this year to put on the parade. But he said he was disappointed at its cancellation.
"I would love to see a Christmas parade again, and if we don't find anyone to host that, we would be happy to host a holiday parade on behalf of village residents," the mayor said.