Franklin Christmas parade unlikely

Published 6:50 pm Friday, November 14, 2008

FRANKLIN—Santa might not ride down the streets of Franklin this year — at least not as a part of the annual Christmas parade.

Officials are scrambling to find a new sponsor for the event, which usually takes place the first Saturday in December.

The GFWC Franklin Junior Woman’s Club, which has organized the parade for the past eight years, said it won’t be able to carry on the tradition.

“After eight years of pouring our heart and soul into the event, it was with heavy heart that the club decided not to continue to spearhead the event following the 2007 parade,” Trish Edwards wrote Friday in a statement on behalf of the club. “Like most local organizations, a severe decline in membership and an even further decline in funding have affected many projects that are near and dear to us, including the parade.”

At its height of parade sponsorship, the Woman’s Club had about 45 members. It is now down to about 15, Edwards said.

Edwards said the group had worked with the Downtown Franklin Association for the past year to find another sponsor.

“Until a couple of weeks ago, we thought that the show would go on; and, like many others, were extremely saddened to hear that it might not,” Edwards wrote.

Dan Howe, the DFA executive director, said the organization has been working diligently all year to find a new organizer for the parade.

“We have not found a group for this year, but there is one or two groups interested in next year,” he said. “Their concern right now is time.”

Howe said the DFA wouldn’t be able to take the reins but would support any group or groups that wanted to step in.

June Fleming, interim city manager, echoed that sentiment.

The city usually provides police and public-works support for the parade.

“We did not cut out support for that,” Fleming said.

Fleming said the city’s phones were inundated with calls Friday about the possibility of the parade being canceled.

“I’ve had calls, calls, calls today,” she said. “Maybe a miracle will happen. I’m not optimistic, and I hate that.”

After learning that the parade was in jeopardy, Frank Davis, the city’s parks and recreation director, began hunting for a new sponsor.

“A lot of people in the community are trying to push and see if we can’t pull it off,” he said. “It’s such a nice thing for the city.”

The parade usually takes months of planning and lots of volunteers, Edwards said. Last year’s parade had 50 entrants.

“If they can pull it off,” she said, “we will help them however we can.”

For now, city officials refuse to say the parade is canceled outright.

“There’s still a glimmer of hope,” Howe said. “You’d have to have a community effort to get it pulled off, though.”