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Sheriff says festival parade created a public safety problem

by Larry Chowning

The Urbanna Oyster Festival Saturday Parade route was discussed at the Middlesex County Board of Supervisors meeting on November 6 as a public safety issue.

Middlesex Sheriff David Bushey was upset that Saturday’s festival parade took 77 minutes to pass through town. He contended the Urbanna Oyster Festival Foundation, sponsor of the festival, created a public safety issue by not properly advertising the routes of Friday’s Fireman’s Parade and Saturday’s festival parade.

“They had them reversed,” said Bushey. “When people realized the route was wrong, there were people rushing across streets and elsewhere to see the parade.”

In the Urbanna Oyster Festival program distributed at the festival, Friday’s parade was incorrectly advertised as going down Prince George Street rather than Virginia Street, and Saturday’s parade was incorrectly advertised as going down Virginia Street rather than Prince George Street.

The Oyster Festival special section in that week’s Southside Sentinel had the correct parade routes listed.

“The Saturday parade took way too long and we had people crossing streets in the parade path throughout the route,” Bushey said. “We had one woman walk right out in the parade into a vehicle.”

For years Saturday’s parade has been a safety concern of police, resulting in the Urbanna Oyster Festival Foundation being required to install expensive barricades along Virginia Street to keep the crowd protected from the parade.

Last year, the foundation received permission to take both parades down Prince George Street, eliminating the high cost of the barricades.

This year the foundation received permission to take Friday’s Fireman’s Parade down Virginia Street, but Saturday’s parade had to bypass the main section of Virginia Street and proceed on Prince George Street to return to the staging area.

Bushey told supervisors that police were strained at points to keep the crowd out of the parade route. He said he would talk to the foundation about finding ways to better control the crowd and conduct Saturday’s parade. “We have got to do something to improve this situation,” he said. “We have to have an understanding that the parade must be shortened. When the crowd has been there too long and they break before the parade is over—you have mayhem.”

Bushey noted there were seven arrests during the festival, a much lower number than in previous years. A York County police officer was injured when responding to a call. He fell off his bike and a cut on his knee required several stitches.

Bushey said other than the parade issues, it was a good festival and “things went well. It appeared to me that a lot of money was being spent.”

Board chairman Carlton Revere suggested Bushey take the parade matter up with the Urbanna Oyster Festival Foundation. “My experience is that they have always been pretty easy to work with,” said Revere.

On Tuesday, November 12, Oyster Festival Foundation chair Joe Heyman said, “We look forward to working with the sheriff and parade committee to make improvements to the parade. There were big delays and I was on the phone trying to figure out why the parade was stopping. We definitely have things to work on to keep it running smoothly and we will work those problems out. Other than this, everything that I’ve heard has been positive and we had a great festival.”

posted 11.13.2013

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