Spectators watch the 2019 St. Clair Shores Memorial Day Parade. The 2020 edition of the parade has been cancelled.

Spectators watch the 2019 St. Clair Shores Memorial Day Parade. The 2020 edition of the parade has been cancelled.

File photo by Sarah Purlee

Memorial Day Parade, more events cancelled in St. Clair Shores

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published April 23, 2020


“It’s discouraging. We feel like we’re on a path of our whole summer going to be lost.”

Kip Walby, St. Clair Shores Mayor

ST. CLAIR SHORES — Summer is typically a busy time in St. Clair Shores.

The fun kicks off with the opening of the baseball season, the first Farmers Market and the Memorial Day Parade, and events continue to bring friends and family together throughout the warm months.

But the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, and the measures being taken to slow its spread mean that, at the very least, the beginning of the season is going to look very different in 2020.

St. Clair Shores announced April 22 that it has canceled or postponed nearly a dozen events that were to be held during the month of May because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the potential for a continued stay at home order from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

“We’re kind of moving slow because all of these events are so important to the community that we didn’t want to cancel stuff if it was at all possible to keep them,” said Mayor Kip Walby.

St. Clair Shores announced April 22 that the following events were canceled for 2020:

• the May 9 Interstate 94 Expressway Ramp cleanup by the Waterfront Environmental Committee

• the May 17 Farmers Market Flowers and Food Trucks event at Blossom Heath Park

• the May 17 opening day for the St. Clair Shores Baseball Association at Kyte Monroe Memorial Park

• the May 24 St. Clair Shores Memorial Day Parade

“Hearing the Governor (say) that we still may be locked down into May and ... all the way up to the President’s guidelines, it just didn’t seem feasible that we could have a Memorial Day Parade on top of the other events,” Walby said.

President Trump announced a three-phase plan for governors to follow as they reopen their economies after certain criteria are met which, among other recommendations, continues social distancing and avoiding groups of more than 10 people in the first phase, which grows to avoiding groups of more than 50 people in the second phase, and employers allowing workers to return in the third phase. 

Summer events in St. Clair Shores typically don’t just draw tens or hundreds of participants, Walby said, but thousands, which is why the city had to begin canceling certain activities.

The Memorial Day Parade alone typically draws crowds of about 60,000 people, and Walby pointed out that many of the guests in the parade are World War II and Korean War veterans that are in their 90s.

“This pandemic clearly hurts and strikes older people,” he said, adding that it was “with sadness (that) we have to cancel.”

Parade Committee Chair Cheryl Furdos said that they knew they had to be “cautious and aware of the situation,” and mindful of the health and safety of participants and spectators.

In addition, she said, if people are too scared to come out to the parade, all the work would be for naught.

“We waited as long as we could, but the uncertainty was too much,” she said. 

Now, the Parade Committee will be meeting virtually to determine how to refund donations made for advertisements in the parade program and donations to the $100 club. 

“We had a couple people who told us just to keep the money, but that’s not saying that everyone feels that way,” she said. 

Fortunately, Furdos said, many of the plans for 2020 can be resurrected in 2021.

“We’re fortunate that we’ve been successful at our fundraising activities, because we’re not going to be wiped out,” she said. “The plans that we have can be just reconfigured. Everyone that we’ve contacted, so far, has already said yes, they’ll be back for 2021.”

St. Clair Shores also announced the postponement of several other events during the month of May:

• the May 9 Kiwanis Bike Fest

• Adaptive Recreation Softball, which was to have begun May 12

• a mid-May Friends of the Library Spring Book Sale

• the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Blossom Heath Beach House, which was scheduled for May 16

• the Nautical Coast Clean-Up, which was scheduled for May 17

• the May 22 opening of the city pool, Lac Ste. Claire Park, Veterans Memorial Park and the Splash Zone

Walby said that the St. Clair Shores Waterfront Environmental Committee is working to find a date later in the summer or early fall for the Nautical Coast Clean-Up, which he said is important for the health of Lake St. Clair. The parade, he said, didn’t seem like it was something that could be done at a later time.

The city has also canceled the Special Needs Playground Program and Summer Playground Program, which offer day camp for children through the Parks and Recreation Department. Walby said, in this case, they needed to give parents as much notice as possible to find other options for their children. The closure of schools also meant that the city would not have places to take the children in the case of inclement weather, he added.

Walby said that Parks and Recreation Director Henry Bowman is working to develop a Virtual Day Camp for children to participate in to provide some activities in lieu of the in-person camps.

St. Clair Shores will continue to evaluate other events planned for the summer months, like the St. Clair Shores Fireworks Extravaganza and the Music on the Lake concert series, and will make announcements with regard to those activities in the coming weeks.

The city has been communicating with Petitpren, the sponsor of the concerts, as well as the Activities Committee, about the events, and Walby said they plan to make further decisions after Whitmer releases new guidelines on how the stay-at-home order may be extended or revised after May 1. 

“We probably are going much slower than other (communities) because I hate to just cancel out everything months in advance,” Walby said. “We’re trying to go slow because maybe we’re able to save something.

“It’s discouraging. We feel like we’re on a path of our whole summer going to be lost.”