Belton Fourth of July parade

The Belton High School Marching 100 performs during the 2019 annual Fourth of July parade in downtown Belton.

The chairman of the Belton Area Chamber of Commerce’s Fourth of July parade committee resigned over what he saw as organizers continued push to hold the event that draws thousands of spectators despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“I did not feel that moving forward with the parade was a good idea,” said Nelson Hutchinson, who served on the parade committee for a decade and currently serves on the chamber’s board of directors.

Randy Pittenger, the Belton Area Chamber of Commerce president, confirmed to the Telegram that Hutchinson resigned from the volunteer position.

For weeks, parade organizers have moved forward with their plans to hold the parade despite stressing that no decision has been made on whether the annual event will occur.

Amanda Robison-Chadwell, the Bell County Public Health District director, has questioned whether the parade can happen safely because, she said, there is no way to actually social distance during the event.

“There are people who are trying to see how a parade can happen. Can it happen? Can it not happen? And if were to happen or need to happen in an alternative way, what does that look like?” Hutchinson said. “None of the examples that have been brought forward really meet with what I feel comfortable with. As a result of that, I just felt that my contributing to those ideas was not going to be sufficient. I had nothing to contribute.”

Hutchinson emphasized that his perspective on the parade is solely his.

Bell County’s growing COVID-19 figures have contributed to Hutchinson’s unease with the parade.

“I don’t see a decrease. I don’t see a sideways. I see an increase,” he said. “I don’t feel that it is a good idea to proceed with the parade.”

Parade organizers, Hutchinson said, have tossed around several ideas for the parade to move forward.

One is to have a so-called reverse parade where people set up displays along a route and people drive through. Another would be to extend the parade route, but Hutchinson said that would require additional permits from the city of Belton and the Texas Department of Transportation to close roads, which would lead to backed-up traffic.

“We’ve been exploring lots of options — everything from ways to extend the parade, ways to change the layout or set up. We talked about the … static parade where it would be a drive through,” Pittenger said. “There have been lots and lots of ideas put and considered. For many weeks, we’ve been talking about the what ifs and what we could do. However, as I’ve said all along, no decisions have been made.”

Pittenger and other officials included in planning have said they are waiting for Texas Gov. Greg Abbott to issue guidance before determining the parade’s fate.

“Everything is on the table at this point for discussion. But we’re on hold waiting for the governor’s guidance,” Pittenger said.

Other cities and areas — including Waco — have decided to postpone or completely shutter events similar to Belton’s Fourth of July bash.

“I would think we should be able to make the same decision internally from our own county’s perspective,” Hutchinson said. “The committee wants to see, I guess, if it can move forward if it is blessed by the governor’s office.”