Saturday, November 19, 2016

Christmas City of the North parade was canceled once, but not due to adverse weather conditions...

Santa Claus waves to spectators during
a wintery Christmas City of the North Parade
on Friday. Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune
By Jim Heffernan

KBJR-TV, which has sponsored the Christmas City of the North parade for nearly six decades, proudly announced on Friday that it would not cancel the popular procession ushering in the holiday season due to the blizzard swirling around the downtown Duluth parade route.

As the storm intensified Friday afternoon and people began wondering if the parade would go on, the station went to facebook with the announcement: “Weather has never caused us to cancel the Christmas City of the North Parade in 58 years, even in worse conditions than today.”

The parade went on, and quite successfully under the circumstances, just as it has every year in the past…except one time. Yes, it has never been canceled due to the weather, but it was canceled on Nov. 22, 1963, the day President John F. Kennedy was assassinated.

As a fledgling newspaper reporter (I had been working at the Duluth News Tribune for about a month), I was assigned to find out, on what was probably the most intense news day of the 20th Century, if the scheduled Christmas City of the North parade would go on that night.

Call WDSM (KBJR’s predecessor call letters, a TV-radio station owned by the same company that owned the newspaper), I was told in the heat of the busy local coverage of the assassination.

I called. Nobody answering phones there knew what to say, or what to do. Finally I got through to Robert J. Rich, general manager, the top dog at the time. The parade will go on, Rich determinedly told me, in no uncertain terms.

The terms were not so certain about an hour later, however, when WDSM called me. The parade would not go on, they announced, out of respect to the fallen president.

So yes, the Christmas City of the North parade has never been canceled due to the weather. But it was canceled once, due to the murder of a president of the United States. As well it might have been. Had to be.

Check out today's Duluth News Tribune coverage of last night's parade HERE.

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