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Letter sparks spirited discussion over Christmas parade

By Emily Ford
eford@salisburypost.com
KANNAPOLIS ó Tumult continues over who gets to organize the Kannapolis Christmas Parade this year.
The Cabarrus Events Association, a spin-off of the Chamber of Commerce that has put on the parade for 10 years, recently mailed a letter to about 125 parade participants complaining that the city turned over the parade to the Kannapolis Intimidators.
The letter encouraged recipients to call the mayor and city council members who voted 4-3 to let Smith Family Baseball, which owns the Intimidators, produce the parade.
The letter listed city officials’ names and phone numbers “if you wish to make your feelings known.”
Vice President John Howard said the events association sent the letter to avoid confusion and help parade participants.
“We wanted them to know that we wouldn’t have any answers,” he said. “If they were to call us, and that’s what they’ve done for many years, it could frustrate them.”
The letter also outlined the parade’s 75-year history and argued that the city can’t give away something it doesn’t own.
The city issues the parade permit.
The city and Smith Family Baseball are working together to plan the 2009 parade. Organizers have moved the parade to 2 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 5, instead of the nighttime event favored by the events association.
Because “the parade has been forgettable and poorly attended” for the past few years, city staff is starting fresh and reaching out to dance studios, civic groups, marching bands, churches and businesses, “all the ingredients to making a parade memorable and fun,” Assistant City Manager Eddie Smith said in an e-mail.
The parade will conclude with a Meet-n-Greet with Santa and the annual tree lighting at Village Park.
While smaller than Concord’s 200-plus-unit parade, the Kannapolis event featured about 140 units last year and was growing, said Brenda Drye, executive director for the events association. The group has organized both parades.
The association’s letter encouraged past parade participants to join the Concord parade on Nov. 21.
The letter prompted an angry response on the Post’s editorial page from Kannapolis City Council member Richard Anderson. He said he voted to give the parade to the Intimidators because the events association held it at night, which wasn’t safe.
The Intimidators also offered to put on the parade for free, while the city has given the events association at least $10,000 annually for several years to organize the parade and a spring festival.
Anderson, whose phone number is listed on the letter, said he has received four phone calls, all in favor of the Intimidators.
Two marching bands have expressed disappointment in the change, Drye said. One director said his band would not participate unless the Intimidators provide a $500 incentive, as the events association has done for each band, she said.
The events association will return half the money from CMC-Northeast, which had paid to sponsor both the Concord and Kannapolis parades, Drye said.
The events association asked the city for $7,000 this year to organize the parade, $2,000 more than in the past, Smith said.
But after the Intimidators offered to produce the parade for free, the association agreed to do the same to no avail. Council members Anderson, Randy Cauthen and Ken Geathers and Mayor Bob Misenheimer voted against the group.
For now, Howard said, the association will focus on the Concord parade while brainstorming ideas for future events in Kannapolis.
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