Parade organizers in central Wisconsin making minor changes following deadly Waukesha incident

Published: Nov. 22, 2021 at 5:36 PM CST
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WISCONSIN RAPIDS, Wis. (WSAW) - Holiday parade organizers in central Wisconsin are making minor changes to their upcoming events following a deadly incident at a parade in Waukesha over the weekend.

At least five people were killed and 48 hurt after a man police identified as Darrell Brooks Jr., 39, barreled down the route of the Waukesha holiday parade on Sunday in an SUV.

The president of Heart of Wisconsin, Wisconsin Rapid’s chamber of commerce, Angel Whitehead said their thoughts are with Waukesha after those terrifying events. The Rekindle the Spirit parade in Wisconsin Rapids is scheduled for Wednesday from 5:45 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. She said it made them reevaluate the security of that parade and they are making minor changes, adding safety is always their priority.

“We are in contact with the Wood County Sheriff’s Department and the Wisconsin Rapids Police Department about their presence and what actions we can partner on together to continue to have it as a safe event that we have every year.”

Law enforcement presence will be the biggest change coming out of the incident in Waukesha. The route down E. Grand Avenue from 3rd Street to the McMillian Library is confined as it is, with few access points. They already have basic wood-beam barriers set up on the sidewalks ready to be moved into the street, like they typically would. Those access points are where the additional officers will be stationed.

Organizers also plan to acknowledge those hurt and killed in the Waukesha parade.

“Our staff internally is working on something, just a little bit of recognition for those to be featured in the parade after, you know, such an awful thing happened over the weekend, but we will be doing something a little bit special, so more details to come,” Whitehead noted.

Last year, the parade was canceled due to the pandemic. Organizers are making a few changes to have it go on this year, as Wood County sees its highest rate of COVID-19 cases so far this year, with 568 active cases and a weekly average of 66 new cases per day.

Whitehead said they encourage people to spread themselves out along the route to keep space between families. Event staff will be masked and they encouraged those at the parade to do so as well, noting it may help keep your face warm in the cold weather too. At the end of the route, families can meet up with Santa Claus, which Whitehead said will be managed in a way to include COVID precautions.

For those who do not feel comfortable coming out to the parade in person, it will be broadcast live over the radio on WFHR and Wisconsin Rapids Community Media will also capture the parade and put it up on the public access following the parade.

Wausau Events Executive Director Alissandra Aderholdt also told NewsChannel 7 they are in contact with the police department and public works to go over possible security changes for the Wausau Holiday Parade, which takes place Friday, Dec. 3. Aderholdt said those security measures will include more security staffing.

“We believe that the best way to honor the victims from the Waukesha parade is to move forward hosting our event, while still finding a way to honor them which is why we decided to host the candlelight vigil after our parade,” Anderholdt said.

The vigil for the victims of the Waukesha parade will follow the tree lighting ceremony with Katie Rosenberg at the 400 Block.

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