So long as the Culpeper County Sheriff’s Office abides by state mandated health precautions, the Culpeper Town Council will allow necessary street closures for the annual Christmas parade.
Granting the street closures passed by a 7-2 vote at an Oct. 13 meeting with council members Jamie Clancey and Meaghan Taylor dissenting.
The annual Culpeper Christmas Parade Sponsored by Sheriff Scott Jenkins is slated for Dec. 6.
Town Manager Chris Hively said the Virginia Department of Health previously denied the parade as initially proposed. Opposed to traditional parades, he noted that the health department broached the possibility of a situation where attendees drive by a still parade.
“The health department has been designated by the governor as being the body that interprets what the executive orders stand for,” Hively said.
Hively added that he does not know where negotiations stand between the Sheriff’s Office and health department. He said the Sheriff’s Office was notified of the Tuesday meeting but no representatives were present.
Councilman Jon Russell expressed surprise that the health department can override local legislative decisions. He added that the town is “not out anything” by merely granting the street closure.
“If the Sheriff’s Department and the Virginia Health Department - if they have the authority - can’t come to some arrangement, then it would just be cancelled. If that’s truly the power they have,” he said.
Councilman Pranas Rimeikis said the town could withhold making a decision until a resolution is reached. Councilman Keith Brown responded that “everything takes planning” and the Sheriff’s Office needs time to organize.
“There’s certain members on this board that don’t want a Christmas parade. I mean it’s plain and simple, they fight it tooth and nail,” he said.
While an argument could be made that allowing the parade opens doors to potential lawsuits if someone gets sick, Brown said it could go the other way.
“As a faith-based individual that has had a ongoing parade, there’s a free exercise clause in there that I could sue the town myself because you’re depriving me of a parade that has been ongoing,” he said.
Brown added this is merely an attempt to prevent the Sheriff’s Office from having a Christmas parade. Those who want to attend the parade, he said, have the right to make personal health decisions.
Pranas expressed umbrage with Brown’s comments, saying he is just thinking of the public safety issue.