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Cannon says he was saving parade before mayoral rival

Two City Council members vying to become Charlotte’s next mayor are also battling for another title as well: savior of the city’s now-canceled Thanksgiving Day parade.

One day after council member James “Smuggie” Mitchell’s campaign put out a press release saying he is leading an effort to revive the parade for this fall, Mayor Pro Tem Patrick Cannon asserted he’d been working to resurrect the parade before Mitchell got active on it.

The dueling parade-saving efforts come in the wake of last week’s announcement that the Carrousel parade, a Charlotte tradition since 1947, has been canceled for this year. Carolinas’ Carrousel, the nonprofit group that runs the parade, said it couldn’t line up a title sponsor.

Cannon, in a phone interview Friday, said he has been talking with the Carrousel board chairman and other board members since early this week.

“I’m just trying to be genuine and not political about the process,” Cannon said. “I did not call (the media) about it. It’s not about politics. It’s about a tradition that’s been a part of this city for years.”

Mitchell, he noted, did not contact the Carrousel board before putting out the press release Thursday. The board chairman, Jeff Collins, confirmed via email that he has had conversations with Cannon – but not Mitchell.

“The Carrousel Board and committee haven’t heard a thing from Mr. Mitchell and his efforts with sponsorship,” Collins wrote. “We appreciate his efforts as we work to continue the Carrousel Parade in 2014.”

Mitchell’s campaign, in the statement issued Thursday, said he and council member David Howard have been talking with local businesses and hope to have an announcement soon about new financial support to put the parade on this year.

Mitchell’s campaign declined to respond to Cannon’s statements Friday.

“We’ll let our actions do the talking,” said David Furr, campaign manager for Mitchell.

Cannon said he agrees with the Carrousel board’s assessment that a top-flight parade wouldn’t be feasible until next year, given the time necessary for planning.

Since members of the Carrousel board have said they need a $75,000 title sponsor to resurrect the parade, Cannon said his idea is for his firm, E-Z Parking Inc., and 74 other small businesses to put up $1,000 each.

“I’m working in lockstep with (the board). If somebody wants to do something else, that’s fine,” he said. “I had the fever (to save the parade). ... I’m glad to know others have caught it.”

Cannon and Mitchell will face Gary Dunn and Lucille Puckett in the Sept. 10 Democratic primary.

Frazier: 704-358-5145; Twitter: @Ericfraz
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