City of New Bern agrees to take over 2023 Christmas parade from Jaycees

Dancers in festive holiday outfits take part in the 2014 City of New Bern Christmas Parade.

The City of New Bern takes over management of this year’s New Bern Christmas Parade, which is scheduled for December 2. The fate of the annual event was called into question after the organizer of past parades, the Craven County Jaycees, failed to file an application with the city for the event.  

During the New Bern Board of Aldermen’s October 24 meeting, Parks and Recreation Director Kari Warren notified the board that her office had received many calls from concerned citizens asking if the parade was going to occur this year. 

“People had been reaching out to the Jaycees and had not been able to get a response. We had reached out and we had not received any type of event application requesting that they would want to hold a parade,” Warren told the board.

Warren said the Parks and Recreation staff had been working on a plan to organize the parade. 

“We felt like it was something that was important to New Bern, to the citizens and since that expectation had already been set that we should try to provide it,” she commented. “It was a city sponsored event and still is a city sponsored event so that was our reasoning in moving forward with it.”

As in the past, Warren said the city would provide logistical planning for the parade and have staff members from Parks and Recreation and Public Works at the event. She said a total of four volunteers with previous experience in planning the parade would also be assisting this year.

According to Warren, the only additional work the city will take on this year will be handling the application process for participants in the parade. She said her staff has already reached out to several different groups to see if there was an interest in participating, including civic groups, several local high school bands and the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing Band.

“We’ve probably talked to 10-12 different groups already, three bands and civic groups such as the Shriners,” Warren said.

Aldermen raised concerns about the application process, noting that the city would be unable to discriminate against applicants based on political viewpoint or ideology.

“If someone wants to put up a Palestinian flag or an Israeli flag and Ukrainian flag or a Confederate flag or a Black Lives Matter flag, because the city is running it, we can’t restrict that,” said Alderman Bob Brinson.

Assistant City Attorney Jaimee Bullock-Mosley agreed that the city cannot restrict against political speech during the application process.

“We can impose reasonable guidelines that are objective that don’t discriminate based on viewpoint or political ideology,” she told the board. 

City Manager Foster Hughes said the goal for the entries would be “family friendly with a Christmas theme.”

Brinson also said he didn’t believe the city running the parade was a long-term solution. He said he would prefer to see a civic organization or nonprofit recruited to run it in the future. 

Mayor Jeffrey Odham noted that if the city did not take over the parade planning this year it likely wouldn’t happen.

“In full transparency the past couple of years the parade has been lacking…the problem is I think the Jaycees of New Bern is no more, I don’t think there is a group anymore,” he commented.

The board voted to close the 300-600 blocks of Broad Street and the 200-300 blocks of Craven Street to vehicular traffic from 9:30 a.m. until 1 p.m., as well as the 400-800 blocks of George Street from 8 a.m. until 1 p.m. on December 2 for the City of New Bern Christmas Parade.

Contacted Friday afternoon, Colleen Roberts, public information officer for the City of New Bern, said the city is already moving forward with the parade plans.

By Todd Wetherington, co-editor. Send an email with questions or comments.