Raleigh city officials, parade organizers meet to discuss future events, motorized vehicles

Sean Coffey Image
Friday, January 12, 2024
Are motorized vehicles returning to Raleigh parades? Maybe, maybe not
Raleigh city officials and parade organizers met for the first of several meetings to set new safety guidelines for future downtown parades

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Raleigh city officials and parade organizers met Thursday for the first of several meetings to set new safety guidelines for future parades in the capital city. It comes after the city's controversial decision to ban motorized vehicles from the Raleigh Christmas and Veterans Day parades -- and roughly two months before the city's St. Patrick's Day Parade is set to take place.

Thursday's closed-door meeting included several city representatives -- including from Raleigh special events -- as well as Raleigh Police, and parade organizers from the Christmas, St. Patrick's, and Veterans Day parades. Also present were organizers from Caribmask, which was able to proceed with vehicles this past August, and representatives from Saint Augustine's University and Broughton High School.

"You have to have vehicles in it, for the very simple reason that you got a bunch of old veterans who are unable to walk that distance," said Terry Chatfield, organizer of the Veterans Day parade for the last decade.

Chatfield made the difficult decision of canceling the 2023 Veterans Day Parade when the city pulled the plug on motorized vehicles a few days before the event.

"On such short notice. It was Tuesday and the parade was supposed to be Saturday, you know what I mean. The decision was made downtown. So yeah, they were unhappy," he said.

Chatfield said he's encouraged that conversations are taking place, and hopes they lead to a productive solution for everyone. Jennifer Martin from Shop Local hopes that, too.

"It's good conversation to have, but I'd like to see some timelines and deadlines for what next steps are about when the goal is to get these conversations on the table and these new rules and regulations in place," Martin said afterward.

While no timelines were given, organizers said city officials seemed open to the possibility of reintroducing motorized vehicles, should the right safety precautions be taken. That decision is not imminent, however.

"It wasn't a no, it was more of them wanting to get ideas on how to better it, vs. trying to figure out if they're gonna have it or not," said George Modeste, one of the organizers of Caribmask, Raleigh's Caribbean Carnival. "I think it was more on how they can better it to be on the safer side."

Meantime, Raleigh city officials said their sole objective has always been to ensure a safe experience for paradegoers.

"Our goal is to make these parades as safe as possible," said Julia Milstead. "So we're having these conversations with parade organizers so we can get their recommendations on what they feel we should do regarding safety."

Now, organizers want the opportunity to show the city they can do that -- with motorized vehicles.

"Obviously, we want safety," said Martin. "We are all willing to make changes and do what we can to do what's best for this community. So now we need the city to give us an opportunity to do that."

Those present said there was no timeline given as to when the group would meet again.

The appearance by Mr. and Mrs. Claus capped off the 2023 parade.