School predicts safer, better attended event
By Scott Bellile
The annual homecoming parade will not come through downtown New London this year.
Rather, there will be a “mini parade” from the New London High School band room entrance to the athletic stadium on Friday, Oct. 6.
This parade will begin at 6:15 p.m. The Bulldogs football game versus Seymour will kick off at 7 p.m.
The high school marching band will lead the parade followed by student organizations. The homecoming court will enter on golf carts to end the parade.
Although the parade switches to school grounds, the event remains open to the public, said Brian Yerkey, activities director and associate principal at New London High School. The school suggests parade spectators arrive around 6 p.m.
As far as reasons for moving the parade, New London Police Chief Jeff Schlueter said dwindling attendance among students and parents no longer justified closing off traffic access to downtown.
Last year the downtown parade route started on State Street, continued to East North Water Street and South Pearl Street, then ended on West South Water Street.
There were also one or two car accidents every year as people drove to the parade, Schlueter said.
“We want to work with the school to keep the spirit going,” Schlueter said. “It’s just we’ve got to look at safety issues along with participation and the fact we’re shutting down a business highway. We want to make it secure and safe and work with the school district the best that we can.
“It’s not to get rid of homecoming,” Schlueter added. “Maybe they’ll find an alternative [parade setup] that maybe the kids are more interested in.”
Yerkey said the setup will stop students from racing downtown and back before the football game and perhaps boost parade attendance from the Bulldogs fans who come early before the game.
“I think we can make it a much better, more kid-friendly, community-friendly event keeping it at the high school,” Yerkey said.
There will be minimal cost savings from not having to bus the high school marching band downtown and back, but Yerkey said cost was not a reason for the move.
The high school will evaluate how the “mini parade” goes in terms of logistics, turnout and student approval and decide whether to do the same next year, Yerkey said.
“Time will tell, but I think it’s a good idea and a good start,” Yerkey said.