When the world shut down, Elberta threw a parade

How one town faced Covid-19 together, quite literally

By Jessica Vaughn
Posted 3/26/21

ELBERTA - In many ways, 2020 could be described as a horror movie. Once crowded streets became bare. Anxieties rose as routines shattered, and what was once familiar became uncertain.

Throughout …

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When the world shut down, Elberta threw a parade

How one town faced Covid-19 together, quite literally

Posted

ELBERTA - In many ways, 2020 could be described as a horror movie. Once crowded streets became bare. Anxieties rose as routines shattered, and what was once familiar became uncertain.

Throughout the world, places shutdown, not only businesses, but also annual events and gatherings. People heard the word “cancelled” more and more often as cities and towns opted to keep people safe and distanced.

The Town of Elberta had a different idea and decided to test a theory on July 4.

“We decided to move forward with our first ever town hosted 4th of July event,” said councilmember and town event planner Vicky Norris. “It was definitely decided for everybody’s mental health. I thought ‘people need this, people need to be able to see other people whether they can touch them or not.’ We did our very best to secure the safety of everyone in attendance, and not once was there a soar in Elberta (of Covid cases) so I feel like we did our part. I took it as, ‘if you do your part when you attend, we’ll do our part to make the event safe.’ If everyone didn’t follow that, then we would address it at that time.”

The town’s 4th of July celebration was held in the new 40-acre field on Highway 83. Cars were guided to parking spots. People could watch the fireworks from inside their vehicle, their hood, or tailgate. Masks weren’t required but were recommended, and those who came were asked to remain beside the vehicles they arrived in.

The night was a huge success for the town. Afterwards, Norris decided to move forward with planning other events, including the Veterans’ Day Parade, the Christmas Parade with a socially distanced Movie in the Park afterwards, and the 2021 Mardi Gras Parade. For all parades, attendees were asked to tailgate at their vehicle instead of lining the streets, and many parades were done without throws. Norris also livestreamed most of the town’s events, so those who felt safer watching from home were able to.

“It was an easy decision for me to continue with the events,” Norris said. “The sitting council didn’t buck me on it, they fully supported me, and the mayor fully supported me. That was certainly helpful because I wanted to be sure we all agreed to move forward. The community saw that too. We let them know to feel free to come if they wanted, or to watch from home if they wanted. And if you do come, then no mask shaming one way or another, be kind to your neighbors. That’s the whole point is making this community-oriented.”

The town got national recognition for hosting its annual Mardi Gras Parade. Krewes from larger metropolitan areas, such as Mobile and Pensacola, came down to roll with the Elberta krewes. Since then, Norris has been contacted by the Mobile and Pensacola krewes and asked if Elberta would consider changing the date of their Mardi Gras Parade moving forward so they could participate in the upcoming years.

The town has also received some backlash on social media for the decision to host events. Overall, the comments from community members have been overwhelmingly positive and appreciative of the town’s decisions.

“I think these events encouraged people to realize people need people,” Norris said. “We have a Blessing Barn coming to our community, headed by the principal of our middle school, and we have smaller blessing boxes coming up all over town. This last year people realized how much you do have to rely on a neighbor, like if your household was sick and you asked a neighbor to run by some supplies and they would drop things off on your porch for you. It’s evident in all aspects of businesses too, they realized for them to stay open they had to make conveniences for customers that were abnormal and have now become normal.

“I don’t think anybody would ever say the pandemic didn’t come without losses, we can’t deny the losses. But I think that reminding people that they matter is important.”