In the aftermath of the tragic circumstances surrounding the Waukesha Christmas Parade, organizers in some local communities are struggling with how to move forward, if at all, with plans for their own parades. One of those communities, Menomonee Falls, decided Monday afternoon to cancel its Christmas parade, which had been scheduled for this coming Sunday.
“It just seems like the respectful and appropriate thing to do,” Menomonee Falls Village Manager Mark Fitzgerald said.
On Sunday, the driver of an SUV plowed through a series of barricades in downtown Waukesha and drove onto the parade route. The vehicle struck several parade participants in a heartbreaking scene that left at least five people dead and 48 injured, including two children who are hospitalized in critical condition, according to updated reports from Waukesha law enforcement on Monday afternoon.
A 39-year-old suspect, a resident of Milwaukee, was arrested after police located his heavily damaged vehicle nearby. The suspect, who has a lengthy criminal record, remained in custody on Monday afternoon. A motive has yet to be determined.
The Optimist Club of Menomonee Falls puts on the village’s parade and made the decision, in conjunction with government and law enforcement officials in the community, to cancel this year’s parade.
“In light of everything that went on last night and because some of the groups scheduled to be in our parade were involved in Waukesha’s parade, for that reason we’re pulling the plug,” Optimist Club President Dan Schwind said.
The decision to cancel the parade is disappointing, especially since all parades were canceled last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Schwind said, but added that it’s appropriate given the circumstances.
“It’s for all the right reasons,” Schwind said. “I don’t think everyone would have had their minds in the right place for this kind of thing because of what has transpired. I think people will all understand.”
Menomonee Falls has Memorial Day and Independence Day parades each year, in addition to its Christmas parade, all of which have been carried out over the years with no security issues.
“Our Fourth of July parade is huge and it’s on Appleton Avenue, so we do a full closure of the street,” said Fitzgerald, the village manager. “People even line up and watch the parade from the center median. It’s a logistically complicated parade to pull off, but we’ve never had any security issues.”
The Optimist Club is confident that the Christmas parade will return in 2022.
“We will certainly do this again,” Schwind said.
South Milwaukee held its Christmas Parade on Saturday evening, just about 24 hours before the devastating developments in Waukesha.
Erik Brooks, former South Milwaukee mayor and current member of the South Milwaukee Lions Club, helped organize the parade.
Brooks said parade organizers in South Milwaukee adhere to a “rigorous planning process” in working to ensure the safety of parade participants and spectators. Nonetheless, he said he doubts anything could have been done to prevent what happened in Waukesha.
“This could happen anywhere. It could have happened in South Milwaukee,” Brooks said.
Wooden barriers were erected at all access points along the parade route in South Milwaukee.
“We blocked off every street and every alley,” Brooks said.
In addition, police squad cars were used to block two main intersections in downtown South Milwaukee. Volunteers wearing special vests also were stationed at the access points, Brooks added.
“You try to do your best, but when someone is bent on destruction, I don’t know how you stop it,” he said. “You are not going to stop someone with just a wooden barrier and a person in a vest. This is my fear at any large event.”