Community leaders continue to wrestle with whether to continue with planned holiday events in the aftermath of Sunday’s Waukesha Christmas Parade, where six people, including one child, were killed and more than 60 injured after being rundown by an SUV driven by a Milwaukee man who now faces multiple homicide charges.
The city of West Allis decided Wednesday to move ahead with plans with for its Christmas Parade, scheduled for 4:45 p.m. on Dec. 4. West Allis Mayor Dan Devine said the city opted to hold its parade after considerable discussions over the past few days. Added security measures will be implemented to keep parade participants and spectators safe, he said.
“We’re taking this very seriously,” Devine said.
After having to cancel last year’s parade due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Devine says West Allis residents “have been eager for this happen,” noting that it’s a tradition for a lot of families in the community.
The decision by West Allis to move ahead with its plans comes after the village of Menomonee Falls decided on Tuesday to cancel it’s Christmas parade, which had been scheduled for Sunday. The Optimist Club of Menomonee Falls, which puts on the village’s parade, made the decision in conjunction with government and law enforcement officials in the community.
They did so because they said some of the groups who participated in the Waukesha parade had been scheduled to march in the Menomonee Falls parade, too. The club also felt people were still processing the tragic events in Waukesha and wouldn’t have been in the right mindset for a parade just one week later. Had West Allis’ parade been this weekend, Devine said the city may have made the same decision.
Among the safety measures being taken in West Allis will be the use of 60 concrete barriers borrowed from State Fair Park, in addition to other barriers from the city’s Department of Public Works, that will be used to block access points along the parade route, Devine said. They will also use Public Works trucks to block side streets and access points and the placement of police squad cars throughout the parade route. Police response teams will be positioned along the route.
The West Allis parade typically has 60 to 70 units participate, but Devine expects that number to drop for this year’s parade. He said some potential participants have backed out due to safety concerns.
The West Allis Central and Nathan Hale high school bands are expected to march as a combined unit due to several band members at each school opting not to participate, Devine said. The combined band will play the Waukesha South High School fight song during the parade in honor of the members of the school’s band who were injured.
The West Allis Youth Commission will be collecting monetary donations along the parade route to help support the victims from the Waukesha parade. Devine said West Allis parade organizers are working on other ways to honor the victims.
“You had people who were going out to a routine parade and their lives have been changed forever,” Devine said said.
West Allis ultimately decided to move forward with its parade after discussions involving the West Allis police and fire departments, the West Allis-West Milwaukee Recreation and Community Services Department and city support staff, Devine said.
“As a part of the larger Milwaukee community, our hearts have very much been with Waukesha as we weighed our options and decided how to proceed,” he said. “We do not take the tragedy that transpired lightly and have thoroughly re-evaluated our approach to all city events as a result. With this in mind, due to increased investment in our resources and the support of multiple groups, we have decided to move forward with the parade and are assured in our ability to hold this event for the community.”