Compromise plan saves Raleigh Christmas Parade, which will proceed without vehicles

Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus wave to the crowd during the Raleigh Christmas Parade in Raleigh, N.C. on November 23, 2019.

The Raleigh Christmas Parade will go on as scheduled, though without motor vehicles, avoiding a cancellation over safety concerns.

City leaders had announced Thursday that the parade would be canceled this year, calling it a “difficult” decision made out of “an abundance of caution” and respect for the family of Hailey Brooks, the 11-year-old who was killed by an out-of-control truck in the 2022 parade.

But late Friday afternoon, Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin said Raleigh had instead offered the Greater Raleigh Merchants Association a compromise version that skirted worries about ongoing litigation and incomplete safety upgrades.

The association accepted the plan for the parade, which will be Saturday, Nov. 18.

“The 2023 event will not include motorized vehicles or floats, but still promises to be one that’s entertaining for all ages,” said Jennifer Martin, executive director of Shop Local, a merchants association affiliate.

Brooks family wanted parade to go on

On Thursday, the city announced it would deny the association its annual parade permit out of respect for the Brooks family. Last November, an out-of-control truck hit the 11-year-old, a dancer with CC & Co. Dance Complex, fatally wounding her in front of a crowd on Hillsborough Street. The 20-year-old parade driver still faces a felony charge.

But Brooks’ family members soon released a statement saying that they had urged Raleigh to hold the annual downtown event with stepped-up safety rules, particularly those proposed in the “Shine Like Hailey Parade Safety Bill.” Among other things, the bill would require vehicle inspections within seven days of parades in cities larger than 35,000 people.

That bill passed the state House earlier this year but has not cleared the state Senate. Meanwhile, Baldwin cited ongoing lawsuits — the city has not been named as a defendant — along with the stalled legislation as reasons to cancel.

On Friday, Baldwin said the city proposed a non-motorized “so we can continue this tradition and honor Hailey’s memory in the safest way possible.”

“Marching bands, dancers and organizations could all participate but in a different way. I am hopeful,” Baldwin told The N&O.

‘We have a parade to plan!’

Martin initially questioned why vehicles were permitted at other parades this year, such as on St. Patrick’s Day.

But she soon announced that the non-vehicle parade idea was a go.

It will be broadcast on ABC11, the N&O’s media partner.

“Stay tuned for more updates,” Martin said, “as now we have a parade to plan!”

Raleigh has adopted some new safety requirements since last Christmas, including proof that parade vehicles are registered and insured. Then the Greater Merchants Association added its own set: every driver must be 21, must ride with a 21-year-old passenger and must demonstrate that the vehicle has passed inspection — including brake checks.

After Hailey’s death, her parents filed a wrongful death suit against the Greater Raleigh Merchants Association, Shop Local Raleigh, the driver, Landen Glass, CC & Co. Dance Co. and D&L Floats.