The popular Winter Wonderland Parade will not roll through Ontario this year because of the Covid epidemic. The annual Veterans Day Parade was also cancled because of Covid. (The Enterprise/File)

ONTARIO – Santa and his reindeer and decorative floats won’t appear on Southwest Fourth Avenue this year.

Area residents will also forgo the opportunity to recognize the sacrifice of veterans with a parade this weekend.

Organizers announced recently the popular Winter Wonderland and Veterans Day parades were canceled because of the Covid epidemic.

“We held off hope to the bitter end but it just wasn’t going to work the way it should have,” said Dan Burk, commander of American Legion Ontario Post 67.

Ontario American Legion in conjunction with the local Veterans of Foreign Wars post typically sponsor the Veterans Day parade the weekend before the holiday. Veterans Day is Nov. 11.

While Burk said a “lot of different factors played into” canceling the parade, the main culprit was Covid. That’s because, he said, organizers were not sure how they could implement social distancing guidelines required by the state and county.

“How do you get people to social distance at a parade? The people in the parade would not have been a big deal – they’d be in different vehicles or marching at a distance – but it was the crowd that really made it a difficult decision,” said Burk.

Burk said the decision to cancel the Veterans Day Parade a hard one.

“We held out to the very end,” said Burk.

Burk said a modest Veterans Day ceremony will be held in front of Four Rivers Cultural Center, beginning at 11 a.m. next Wednesday.

The same challenge impacted the Winter Wonderland Parade, said John Breidenbach, president and chief executive officer of the Ontario Area Chamber of Commerce.

The parade, a chamber mainstay for more than 50 years, usually is held the first Saturday in December. Other key events tied to the parade – including the annual Santa’s Breakfast and the selection of the Winter Wonderland Parade royalty court – will not happen. The Winter Wonderland Junior Marshal essay event – which includes sixth-graders from across the area – won’t occur either.

“I had a conversation with the health department and they explained the social distancing thing and I can’t guarantee people would stay in their cars and not get out,” said Breidenbach.

He said the parade usually has about 70 floats and draws more than 2,500 people into Ontario.

The loss of the parade will make an economic impact on small businesses in Ontario, he said.

“It brings people in town and they go shopping and they support local business. But, you know, that is the way the world is now, safety first,” said Breidenbach.

He said “most people have been supportive” of the cancelation.

“They understand it is the year that it is,” he said.

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News tip? Contact reporter Pat Caldwell at [email protected] or 541-473-3377.