Chamber of Commerce cut the parade after complaints from parents that children 'felt intimidated'

There will be no official caravan of goblins, ghouls and every other costume imaginable this Halloween in Ashland.

The Ashland Chamber of Commerce this week announced the cancellation of its long-running Children's Halloween Parade in an attempt to bring the celebration's focus back to young kids, said Katharine Flanagan, sales and marketing director for the chamber.

The chamber will still close off downtown's East Main Street and Plaza to host a Children's Halloween Celebration, which will include trick-or-treating at downtown businesses, more musical performances than past years and activities directed toward kids.

"The focus of the celebration was kind of getting away from the children ... and since that was our mission of the event, we sat down this year to think of ways we could solve the issue," Flanagan said.

"The type of feedback that the chamber of commerce was getting from parents was that their kids weren't having any fun in the parade ... that children felt intimidated."

In the 2010 Halloween parade, the chamber responded to similar feedback from the previous year by having the children walk first down the parade route, hoping to separate them from the rest of the rowdiness. It also required parade participants to follow a set of guidelines, allowing only costumes and conduct "appropriate for a family audience."

"That didn't really flesh out," said Flanagan. "We realize that we can't dictate how that parade goes; as far as who goes first and what order everybody stays in "… so we decided to forgo it."

Typically the parade draws about 6,000 people to downtown Ashland each year, and Flanagan doesn't expect that number to change because of the chamber's decision. She said the chamber's hope is that keeping the Plaza and East Main Street closed to its intersection with Gresham Street will provide a space large enough for everyone to gather comfortably, and take the pressure and intensity that the parade created for the children out of the celebration.

"Without the processional parade, the parents and small children will feel more comfortable coming to the event and enjoying the festivities," said Juli Di Chiro, a member of the Chamber's Halloween celebration committee and superintendent of Ashland schools. "Based on our feedback, a change was necessary. This brings the focus back to the children."

Kevin Culhane of Ashland said he used to take his two sons to the parade when they were young, and was saddened to hear news of the parade's cancellation.

"My kids grew up with it and weren't frightened. "… we enjoyed the music and crazy costumes," he said. "The whole point of Halloween is scariness. It's part of growing up."

Like last year, the chamber is requiring that participants' costumes not include any nudity, profanity, lewdness, illegal drugs, violence, obscenity, racism or offensive content.

Participants also are prohibited from smoking or using devices with flames, such as torches, flame throwers or lanterns, or from using explosive devices, such as firearms and fireworks. Drugs and alcohol also are prohibited.

Jim Quinby of Ashland plays surdo drum with the band Samba Like It Hot, which has had the responsibility of leading the Halloween parade for the last 10 years, he said. He said without the act of marching, the samba band loses a lot of its appeal.

"We think it's a bad idea to cancel the parade. It's something that's been a longstanding Ashland tradition," he said. "Sure we'll still play, and I'm rather looking forward to what everyone works out, but I'm really upset about it."

East Main and the Plaza will be closed from 3 to 4:30 p.m., and kids will have the opportunity to trick-or-treat at businesses there. Only storefronts displaying an orange pumpkin will be handing out candy to trick-or-treaters.

There also will be two children's book characters dressed in costume for kids to take pictures with and hear stories from, said Flanagan. The celebration will include performances from a half dozen musical acts, including last year's popular Thriller group, a handful of DanceWorks company dancers who perform to the theme of the Michael Jackson hit song.

"Halloween in Ashland has been known throughout the valley as a fun place to go, and it still is; this decision doesn't change that," said Flanagan. "Honestly, our only true intention is to provide kids in Ashland with the best Halloween experience possible."

Reach reporter Sam Wheeler at 541-499-1470 or email

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