Volunteers disappointed as COVID stamps out Delaware’s All Horse Parade

PAUL COMSTOCK
editorial@thisweeknews.com
Delaware residents watch the horses pass by during last year's All Horse Parade. This year's parade has been canceled due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

One Sunday each September, downtown Delaware echoes with the clop of horseshoes on city streets.

Until 2020, that is.

“This virus controls all of us,” said Diane Winters, a longtime organizer of Delaware’s annual All Horse Parade, after the city of Delaware told parade organizers this year’s event must be canceled because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

The parade, scheduled Sept. 13, traditionally precedes the Delaware County Fair. It is not directly affiliated with the county agricultural society, which oversees the annual fair.

In an average year, the parade includes 100 horses and four marching bands, but no motor vehicles.

Delaware City Manager Tom Homan broke the news in an Aug. 3 letter to Winters.

“I need to inform you that the All Horse Parade scheduled for Sunday, Sept. 13, 2020, will need to be canceled,” Homan wrote.

“This was not an easy decision, but inevitable, given Gov. (Mike) DeWine’s recent order regarding county fairs and the current order on large group gatherings, which has been unchanged since May and restricts public gatherings to 10 people or less,” he wrote. “It is neither reasonable nor realistic to think that the next iteration of the governor’s order will result in an event like the horse parade being allowed to safely go forward in a little over one month.”

Homan added his thanks to Winters and her team.

“We look forward to working together to resume this great event in 2021,” he wrote.

The development is a disappointment to everyone involved in planning the parade, Winters said.

“As a committee, we were ready to go and offer the community something to look forward to this year. ... I’ve been getting phone calls daily from people,” she said. “If the virus were to stop, we’re ready to parade. But unfortunately, this year we don’t have control.”

Organizers had been taking a low-key approach to this year’s parade, she said.

“We decided not to advertise it as much,” Winters said.

A number of older riders had dropped out for safety reasons, “and I don’t blame them – not at all,” she said.

The All Horse Parade has been organized by volunteers since its inception in 1986, Winters said.

She said it was inspired by an idea from H.C. “Red” Reed, then editor of the Delaware Gazette, who contacted Winters about organizing the first event. She was assisted at the time by Lyle Byers, who invited owners of draft horses to join in.

Longtime volunteers also include Debbie Winters-Bergandine, Pat Allen, Monty Harris Sr. and Susan Barr, she said.

Another volunteer, Bill Westbrook of Fredericktown, is being inducted into the Percheron Horse Association of America’s Hall of Fame this year, she said.

“We’re looking forward to seeing everyone with a bigger and better parade next year,” Winters said.

In response to the pandemic, DeWine also limited all county fairs starting after July 31 to Junior Fair activities.

As a result, the general public won’t be admitted to this year’s Delaware County Fair, set Sept. 19-26, fair board president Tom Wright said July 29. The annual Little Brown Jug harness race will be held Sept. 24, but with no spectators at the track.

For more information, visit littlebrownjug.com.

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