There won’t be a downtown Indiana parade the week before Thanksgiving, but there will be something to offer the guests at Thanksgiving dinner.
Event restrictions in place because of the continuing COVID-19 pandemic forced cancellation of this year’s It’s a Wonderful Life Parade, a tradition for decades in the downtown business district.
However, organizers are putting together a virtual parade that will be edited by Indiana County Technology Center students, with narration by the usual emcee for the parade, Renda Broadcasting’s Josh Widdowson.
“We don’t want to lose that community feeling that the parade brings with it,” said Linda Mitchell, Downtown Indiana Inc. executive director. “It’s the biggest event that happens in Indiana Borough throughout the year.”
So how do you do a virtual parade?
“Everyone will submit videos,” Mitchell said. “ICTC is editing them together. We will release it as a video the week of Thanksgiving.”
The usual sponsors of the parade all are involved, including the Lucy Donnelly Fund and the Indiana County Tourist Bureau and Downtown Indiana Inc., with support from the Indiana County Center for Economic Operations and ICTC.
Videos do not have to show a marching band strutting its stuff in someone’s backyard.
“We encourage everyone whether they’ve been in every parade or never been in any parade,” Mitchell said. “It does not have to be elaborate.”
One possibility, for instance, is a group in Santa hats wishing everyone a Merry Christmas.
On the other hand, she said, “both of the big dance schools have already committed to the parade, and Mytrysak Tree Farm is participating.”
In any case, there are guidelines suggested for the videos, which can be found at a link on the It’s A Wonderful Life Festival Facebook page.
The traditional parade typically started at 7 p.m. and ended between 8:30 and 9 p.m.
“We usually have 75 units,” Mitchell said. “We’ve had as many as 80.”
The invitation just went out this week, but already there were 10 groups expressing interest.
“We hope for at least 50 and we think we will get them,” Mitchell said, predicting another “flurry of interest toward the deadline” for videos of Oct. 31.
That could include high school participation, which typically totals three or four, depending on the year.
“We hope they will do something,” Mitchell said. “It could be band or a club.”
Meanwhile, she said, Hastie Kinter is reaching out to Indiana University of Pennsylvania to do something. She predicted that Kinter would succeed.
Also, “we’re working on getting all the downtown businesses involved and all the people who normally send units.”
In any case, as Mitchell noted, “the actual parade is about the community coming together, the magic of the holidays.”
And all involved are hoping, as the Downtown Indiana Inc. director put it, that “we will be back on Philadelphia Street next year.”