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Organizers end Holiday Caravan parade after controversy in 2017

Part of letter

Click image to view the entire letter and more at their website:  www.holidaycaravanparade.com

By Shavonne Walker

shavonne.walker@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — After 58 years, organizers have canceled the Holiday Caravan, the board of directors said Tuesday in a letter to parade participants. The end follows a controversy last year when representatives of a gay support group were told they could not ride on a float.

“With saddened hearts, the Holiday Caravan, also known as ‘the Carolinas’ loveliest and liveliest holiday parade,’ will be no more,” the brief letter says.

The board thanked everyone for making the parade such a success for many years.

On its website, the board provided more details about why it decided to forego the parade this year. They say it all began during last year’s parade.

At the 2017 parade, Salisbury Rowan Parents and Families of Lesbians and Gays, or PFLAG, had several members who wanted to ride on a float and were told they could not. A month before the parade, Veleria Levy, a representative of float sponsor Avita Pharmacy, said she invited PFLAG to ride on the Avita float.

Parade organizers said PFLAG was not listed as a participant on the pharmacy’s original application. In a November 2017 email exchange between Levy and a parade organizer, the organizer told Levy she could have whoever she wanted on the float but they could not wear any advertisements other than those for Avita Pharmacy.

In a letter on the Holiday Caravan website dated Nov. 22, 2017, the board said: “An entry with  premeditated, full-of-hate, assumptions and lack of knowledge caused a scene that has forever impacted Salisbury historically as far as the future of the Holiday Caravan Parade.”

Organizers say they followed the parade’s policies as they have always done. They said the all-volunteer board members received hate mail, emails and threats to protest the 2018 parade directed to their personal email addresses, home addresses, social media accounts and their place of employment.

“The personal attacks on these people’s livelihoods, local businesses they own, places of employment, and them just as a human being were unprovoked, and no volunteer should ever have to endure something of that nature,” the letter said.

Below is a statement from the Holiday Caravan website (www.holidaycaravanparade.com) on why the annual Christmas parade will no longer be held:

“With saddened hearts, the Holiday Caravan, also known as ‘the Carolinas’ loveliest and liveliest holiday parade,’ will be no more, due to unforeseen circumstances.

“The Holiday Caravan has been around for 58 years thanks to the dedication of its founders, board members, town of Spencer, city of Salisbury, Salisbury Civitan, our community and especially Food Lion for being a major sponsor for many many years. Without Food Lion’s financial support, the parade would not have been possible for many of those years.

“At last year’s parade on Nov. 22, 2017, an entry with premeditated, full-of-hate assumptions and lack of knowledge caused a scene that forever impacted Salisbury historically as far as the future of the Holiday Caravan Parade.

“Since last year’s parade, the all-volunteer board members have received hate mail, email, and threats to protest the 2018 parade to not only their personal email addresses, home addresses, social media but also to their place of employment. These board members have dedicated their entire lives and heart to this event and every year, some of them for over 30 and 40 years. The personal attacks on these people’s livelihoods, local businesses they own, places of employment, and them just as a human being were unprovoked, and no volunteer should ever have to endure something of that nature.

“This past year, we followed Holiday Caravan’s policies as we have always done. This isn’t the first time we have had to remove an entry on parade day due to noncompliance. Veleria Levy submitted an application as Avita Pharmacy. We have attached her submitted application below. It was approved as Avita Pharmacy. In the days before the parade, Veleria emailed in asking to change her entry to which we responded it was too late to change. Emails are attached as well.

“Veleria Levy decided that she was above policy enforcement (and) that the rules do not apply to her. The entry for Avita Pharmacy originally showed up with nothing showing they were a pharmacy, other than the provided attached sign that comes on their float from our float vendor based on their application. They had 3-by-5 rainbow flags, hand flags and PFLAG banners rolled up on the float.

“A parade representative approached them and told them they could not go through the parade route as anything other than their approved entry as Avita Pharmacy. They refused to change clothes or remove their signs. Participants were given four hours to meet approved entry and chose not to. Therefore, their entry was pulled from the lineup and not allowed to participate.

“There was a staged photo circulating in the media with Avita shirts; those didn’t appear until after their removal — after they stated they didn’t have anything to change into. All the flags and signs they had were not included in their picture — their picture included as well; please notice the oversize sweaters the children are wearing as obviously that was not what they planned to wear through the parade but put on for this photo.

“Holiday Caravan policy below:

“‘All units must remain faithful to their descriptions as submitted to the parade board for approval prior to the parade entry deadline. Any major change to a unit, after it has met the approval of the board, must be resubmitted to the board for approval. Unapproved units showing up on parade day will not be allowed to enter the parade.”

“Veleria went to the new Salisbury City Council to pressure it to take over the Holiday Caravan. To which the city researched and is considering producing its own parade. The city has yet to contact the Holiday Caravan board to even discuss the events of last year’s parade or the future of the Holiday Caravan but have had plenty of discussion from the other side of the event.

“Attached are also excerpts from the Salisbury City Council minutes and agenda.

“We have notified the town of Spencer and cCity of Salisbury of our intent not to produce future Holiday Caravan Parades, and if they chose to produce future parades it will be at their discretion.

“Holiday Caravan Inc., our block logo and the “Carolinas’ Loveliest and Liveliest Holiday Parade” are a registered trademark that will continue as a historic archive. Visit our website at www.HolidayCaravanParade.com.

“Respectfully,

“Holiday Caravan board members”

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