A combination of factors, including a county prohibition on large gatherings, have scuttled the parade for this year. Photo by Matthew Hall.

Santa Monica’s annual July 4 parade has been canceled this year due to a combination of factors that all trace their roots to the Coronavirus crisis.

The health scare has left Santa Monica without a local Independence Day celebration as the Santa Monica College fireworks show has also been canceled but parade organizers are considering alternate ideas for a different kind of celebration later in the year.

Parade organizer Jeff Jarow said planning for the parade starts months in advance of the event with discussions over permits, solicitation of donations and notifications to the community. However, he said the Covid-related shutdowns made almost every step of the process impossible.

The parade must secure road closure permits for the route and discussions with City Hall and the Police Department are necessary to determine the precise route and associated costs. Jarow said with City Hall shutdown, he has been unable to begin that planning process and before he could, the City entered into an unprecedented budget crisis that pulled all City support for events like the parade.

Santa Monica must make more than $80 million dollars in cuts to its ongoing budget and the current proposal terminates all city sponsored special events including the Twilight Concert Series, Coast open streets event, National Night Out, Coffee with a Cop, Marathon Planning and the 4th of July Parade.

While the city did make a financial contribution, the event has to fundraise for most of its costs.

He said the event was traditionally funded with small donations and sponsorships, typically under $1,500 and fundraising for the event was always a challenge without a top-line sponsorship that was avoided to maintain the small-town feel of the parade. Jarow said the current economic climate made securing those donations borderline impossible.

In addition to cost, the City report states social distancing requirements also make it difficult to plan special events.

“Consistent with LA County Department of Public Health’s order prohibiting all large gatherings, the beloved 4th of July parade would not be a permitted at this time,” said Public Information Officer Constance Farrell. “The City is working closely with LA County as they slowly relax Safer At Home orders, and will share more information about gatherings when the County provides guidance.”

Jarow said he understood the distancing problems.

“It’s normally a packed event with people sitting next to each other all along the route and we don’t know if people can do that this year,” he said. “When will we have a normal enough situation to do a parade?”

A third challenge this year is construction of an athletic field at the Civic Center.

“Even if we decided to have it we’d have to change everything because our staging area has been taken over by a soccer field and that’s an element we haven’t been able to address at all,” he said. “Staging at beach lots has been impossible so far due to a city ordinance that limits the direction and route.”

Jarow said in normal times, there might have been an opportunity to alter the route rules or find a solution but these are not normal times and the city’s priorities have shifted to addressing the health/budget problems.

The City’s current rules limit marches, processions, walks or parades to one way along a designated number of streets on the western edge of the city. Main Street options are required to begin at the Civic Center and can only travel south. Under current rules, the parade can’t begin in the beach lots or move north through the city.

While the July 4 parade is canceled, Jarow said he has hopes for a replacement event later in the summer when the current restrictions have been lifted. He said he’d like to organize a combined graduation/caregiver/first responder event that traveled throughout the city and allowed residents to experience the community of a parade without having to necessarily gather in a large group along the old route.

“We could get trucks out there, we could get music out there, we could have a moving hoedown,” he said.

Jarow said the event probably wouldn’t include any significant number of walking entries but an all vehicle parade could be created with minimal impact to the city.

“I haven’t heard back from anyone at the city about it yet,” he said. “But once this craziness is over, it’s a good idea that we could try.”

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