Christmas Classic is not to blame

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By Mike Forster

Josh Raines doesn’t strike me as a grinch.

Raines, race director of the YMCA Peaks of Otter Christmas Classic, was surprised that his race was being pointed to as the primary reason for the movement of Bedford’s annual Christmas parade into the evening.

The parade, which has been held on the first Saturday of December, has a start time of 11 a.m.

The Classic race, which has been run for 28 straight years, has also been held on the first Saturday of December. In an article in last week’s Bedford Bulletin, it was stated that the race started at 10 a.m., which caused a conflict, particularly for law enforcement officials, since they work both events.

The actual race start time is (and has been for the past decade) 8:30 a.m. I know this because, on the first Saturday of December, I curse the name of Josh Raines (even though he is an affable fellow) for hosting such an early-morning event on my sleep-in day.

“I never thought there was much of a conflict,” stated Raines. There are two events that run concurrently: A 5K and a 10K run. The 5K is one trip around the Bedford Loop; the 10K is two trips. According to Raines, runners are off the streets by 9:45 a.m.

“I always thought it worked out decently,” said Raines. “Both spectators and police can just move over to the parade (when the race is over).”

I have covered the past two Classic races and volunteered to work the parade. I stayed for the entire race, interviewed participants afterward, went home and returned to help with the set-up of the parade, with plenty of time to spare.

Until the mid-1990s, the race used the Bedford Primary School as its hub. When it moved to the Middle School, the start time shifted from 10 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. “We’d rather start at 9 a.m., but do it at 8:30 to accommodate the parade,” noted Raines.

Raines was not prepared to discuss the possibility of moving the location or the time of the race. He did note, however, that he has not been approached about either option.

Instead, the scheme is to move the Christmas parade to the evening.

I think such a move is a poor idea, one that will risk a significant drop in participation and attendance. In my opinion, the parade and Centerfest are the two finest events held in the city. Why we would create a major shift in one of them is beyond me.

A night time parade will be colder and less safe. Having worked the traffic at the last two parades, I can tell you there is a great potential for accidents. With so many vehicles in the mix, darkness will only increase that probability.

Additionally, the nighttime parade will be in competition with similar events in Lynchburg and at the Lake.

Despite these sound reasons, there are those that think the move is a good thing. My editor is one of those poor, misguided people. It appears that he is fond of lights and other shiny objects.

I hope he is also fond of getting pelted in the head by hard candies being thrown in the dark of night.

Obviously, there are members of the group that runs Centertown who feel the same way. If the Centertowners want to move the parade, they are perfectly within their rights. I suspect they will work diligently to make the parade’s move to the nighttime.

Let’s just not point at the folks that run (and run in) the Peaks Classic as the reason for the move.

They’re not the grinches here.