NC Veterans Day Parade canceled after Raleigh's last-minute ban on vehicles: 'Very disappointing'

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Wednesday, November 1, 2023
Organizers, veterans share disappointment after parade cancellation
Veterans Day Parade in Raleigh canceled after organizer given short notice that no vehicles would be allowed

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- There will not be a Veterans Day Parade in downtown Raleigh for 2023.

The parade's organizer Terry Chatfield tells ABC11 he made the decision Tuesday night to cancel it when Raleigh officials called him at 4:45 p.m. Tuesday to tell him motorized vehicles would not be allowed.

The parade was scheduled to begin four days later on Saturday. Much of the setup for the parade -- like staging and porta-potties -- had already been bought and paid for. It's unclear how much of that will be able to be recouped.

Chatfield called the decision "very disappointing" and said it would be a "logistics nightmare" to attempt a parade with "elderly" people and participants who cannot walk. He has organized the parade for 12 years and was expecting 500-600 participants and about 115 vehicles.

He said it was tough having to tell Veterans the news that the event had been canceled, but it was the right thing to do given the parade's reliance on vehicles for older veterans and amputees. Chatfield said he's trying to stay positive.

"It's always next year. So this next year is a different year; not crying over it. It's done, you know," he said.

Chatfield said he does not blame the city for pulling the plug on allowing parade vehicles.

Chatfield said the city official in charge of permits said there needed to be continuity with the Christmas parade.

Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin sent ABC11 this statement confirming the decision to ban vehicles: "Staff made a decision to not allow motorized vehicles to ensure consistency and safety."

John Odom is a Vietnam veteran. He has also helped organize and plan both the Veterans Day Parade and Raleigh Christmas Parade in the past.

"The City of Raleigh is missing the boat on these parades, and they need to find out what they're going to do and do it," he said.

While he's not an organizer this year, Odom said those organizers weren't given proper notice about the decision to ban vehicles. He also said he believes all the necessary safety precautions for the parade had been met.

Odom said the city had to approve the Veterans Day Parade permit in June. He said he was stunned they would wait until the week of the parade to then back out of the permit's approval.

"Disappointment in the fact that, you know, up until yesterday -- and I'm talking since August, you know -- there were no mention of not having vehicles," Chatfield said.

City officials debated over having parades without vehicles during a City Council meeting in October. Even then, organizers for the Raleigh Christmas Parade told leaders that it was unfair to older paradegoers and disabled participants to ban motorized vehicles.

Organizers of the Veterans Day Parade said that decision is even more unfair to that parade because of the number of World War II veterans and injured veterans who are part of the parade.

The city released the following full statement about the decision Wednesday:

"The City of Raleigh had granted a parade permit to the Wake County Council of Veterans. Upon further review this week, City staff recognized the size of the vehicle caravan planned through Downtown created a risk to public safety. We spoke with the Veterans group about other options. They have since cancelled the parade and will continue with the ceremony at the Capitol at 11 a.m.

We sincerely apologize to the veterans who gather each year for this significant honor of their service and sacrifice. The City continues to prioritize safety of our residents while being mindful of pending legislation. We will continue our evaluation of these events and monitor the landscape, and we expect that parades will look different in the future."