A North Carolina holiday parade has shut down, blaming hate mail and threats of protests after the parade denied a gay rights group’s float entry last year.
The Holiday Caravan Parade has been a 58-year tradition around Thanksgiving in the town of Spencer and neighboring city of Salisbury.
Last November, the leader of a Rowan County gay rights group accused parade organizers of discrimination after a float she and supporters were to ride on was banned from participating, The Charlotte Observer reported at the time.
Parade organizers said the float’s sponsor, AVITA Pharmacy, violated its rules by letting a separate group advertise its message with “signage, apparel, fliers” that were not approved beforehand, the Observer reported. That group was Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, which includes parents of LGBTQ children.
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Donna Brown Odrosky, president of the group’s Salisbury-Rowan chapter, told the Observer at the time that the parade’s organizers objected to her members’ attire: rainbow-colored Mardi Gras beads, rainbow designs on their hats and black PFLAG shirts.
Avita, whose customers include HIV patients and which has sponsored PFLAG and Salisbury Pride events, invited Odrosky and three other PFLAG members to join its float after some planned Avita riders indicated they couldn’t make the parade, Odrosky told the Observer.
A statement on the parade’s website this week said that “since last year’s parade the all volunteer board members have received hate mail, emails, and threats to protest the 2018 parade to not only their personal email addresses, home addresses, social media but also to their place of employment.
“These board members have dedicated their entire lives and heart to this event each and every year, some of them for over 30 and 40 years!” the statement said.
The parade committee removed other floats in years past “due to non-compliance” with parade policies, according to the statement.
Social media reacted mostly with anger, sadness or outrage over the parade’s cancellation.
“I am so sad to see this tradition for my family come to an end,” Tonya Hull posted. “I have taken my children to watch this every year.”
“This. Pisses. Me. Off. Why in the world is there so much hate in the world,” posted Susan Bittner Nation-Doyle. “This is something that so many looked forward too. Sad, just sad.”
Others said they were glad the parade was closing.
“If they can pull a pharmacy float due to supporting PFLAG (they had a rainbow flag), then discriminatory parades should end,” posted Chip Palmer.
In a statement to the Observer and other media on Wednesday, Odrosky said she, too, was disappointed by the parade committee’s decision to end the parade.
“Since the incident in November 2017, PFLAG has asked for, and welcomed a dialogue with the Holiday Caravan board, to no avail,” Odrosky said.
“It has always been our vision at Salisbury Rowan PFLAG to have “a world where diversity is celebrated and all people are respected and affirmed inclusive of their sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression,” she said. “...We look forward to working with a future parade committee whose mission and vision more closely aligns with PFLAG, the cities of Salisbury and Spencer, and event sponsors.”
On Facebook, Avita Pharmacy said on Wednesday that it “is deeply saddened to see this community become so divided through this situation. We would love to see the Holiday Caravan parade carry on its long tradition of fun and celebration for the families of Salisbury and to do so in a manner that is welcoming and inclusive of all groups who represent the beautiful and diverse community of Salisbury.
“We empathize also with the citizens of Salisbury in their disappointment over this decision by the Holiday Caravan board members and urge Holiday Caravan to reconsider its decision to cancel this long-held and valuable community tradition,” Avita posted.