A major holiday celebration in Cherokee County has been canceled this year because of the novel coronavirus pandemic.
The annual March of the Toys Parade, held in early December in downtown Ball Ground that also collects items for Toys for Tots will not be held this year because organizers said they want to keep the public safe from any potential exposure to the virus.
“This would have been our 8th March of the Toys Parade for Toys for Tots,” said Tim Cavender, who is instrumental in putting the event together every year. “It was a very difficult decision for me and normally I start working on it in February. We’ve created a huge event that brings in thousands of people to our city over the years and it has been very beneficial for Toys for Tots, too. However, the No. 1 priority for me is the safety of the children and I was concerned about them more than anything else. It would have been difficult for me if I knew the parade caused a child to get sick.”
Ball Ground City Manager Eric Wilmarth said the city wanted to follow the guidelines put forth by Gov. Brian Kemp’s office, and after talking with Cavender, felt it was best that this year’s parade not go forward. With thousands of people packed into Ball Ground's small downtown area, everyone involved in the decision felt trying to implement social distancing efforts would not be feasible, nor did they relish the idea of having to take action like limiting the number of attendees, essentially telling people who could and could not attend the parade.
“We tried to come up with alternatives,” Wilmarth said. “None of us liked the decision.”
The decision has already drawn negative feedback in the community, but both Wilmarth and Cavender are hopeful for the parade's return in 2021. Wilmarth said he hoped “those being vocal about it will volunteer going forward to help put the event on, as it takes a lot of people to make this so successful.” At the same time, he praised Cavender and the volunteers who have made the March of the Toys Parade the success it has become and that the heat on cancelation should not be placed on Cavender, but on the city.
“I’m hoping that we can see a major improvement in the COVID-19 situation next year and things can get back to normal,” Cavender said. “The parade is not canceled for good, we hope to continue it in 2021. Plus, I would love to make the parade bigger and better than ever when we return next year.”