After organizers expressed concerns about the policing presence during the 54th-annual “Parade of Lights” here, five OPP officers stepped forward and volunteered to work it.
“We’re thrilled,” Robin Payeur, with Causeway General Insurance Brokers Ltd., enthused yesterday afternoon after local Community Services Officer Cst. Anne McCoy stopped by the office to share the news.
“It’s just so nice. It’s all volunteer,” Payeur noted, adding Cst. McCoy told her the officers decided to volunteer and help out at the parade because “it’s all about the kids.”
Payeur said the officers will be at the front and back of the parade to create a safe traffic presence and, in general, help everything run smoothly.
“And kids are excited to see the OPP. Like Anne said, with her job, it’s the closest thing to getting to be a rock star,” she remarked.
“I just think it’s terrific. It’s a huge load off our minds,” added Payeur.
In another positive turn of events, Payeur said the Muskie boys’ hockey team has volunteered to man all the barricades along the parade route.
As first reported Monday, the route for the Nov. 26 parade was changed. It now will start on the 700 block of Scott Street, near the Memorial Sports Centre, and proceed west on Scott Street before dispersing at Mowat Avenue.
The previous plan had been to start at the Fort Frances Volunteer Bureau (old CN station), proceed down Central Avenue, and then turn east onto Scott Street to the Memorial Sports Centre.
The route was changed to minimize the reliance on OPP officers.
While the OPP initially had agreed to have on-duty officers at the parade, there was no guarantee they wouldn’t be called away before or during it without having to pay for extra officers.
Payeur noted the new parade route will remain even though the five officers have volunteered, explaining organizers wanted to try out the route and see how it goes.
The Police Services Board is reviewing the local parade situation and contemplating the institution of a permanent route in the future, and the new route for the “Parade of Lights” is one of the options being contemplated.
As previously reported, the theme for this year’s parade is “A Festival of Trees,” with groups and individuals encouraged to enter floats.
Prizes will be awarded in several categories.
Volunteers also will be needed for tasks such as putting up posters beforehand.
Those wanting to pre-register floats, or be a volunteer, can call Brenda Kellar at 274-6688 or e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org
In related news, the Sunset Country Métis Nation of Ontario (MNO) and the Fort Frances Lakers will be holding a toy drive during the Christmas parade.
The toys then will be distributed to families in need across Rainy River District through the MNO and other organizations.
The public is asked to bring toys to the parade or to the Lakers’ game that same evening.