It has been 40 years (as of Dec. 3) since the last time I stepped out of the Party City parking lot between Broadway and Tazewell Pike with the Central High School Marching Band for the Fountain City Christmas Parade. We marched north on Broadway from Adair Drive all the way to Central Baptist Church. South bound traffic on Broadway just kept going, but all crossings were blocked.
Though it has only been seven years since the last parade was held in Fountain City, it already feels like a lifetime ago. Though the Bobcat band wasn’t the only thing going on for sure, it was certainly a feature of the parade, at least until Santa showed up. It was a hallmark of being in the band.
After the parade, the tradition was a tree lighting ceremony in Fountain City Park. More often than not, parade day lined up with the arrival of the band’s crates upon crates of oranges, tangerines and grapefruits. So, it was back to the band room to load up deliveries for one of its annual fundraisers.
The parade wasn’t just a big deal for Central’s band: other CHS clubs participated as well as from Gresham Middle, local Girl and Boy Scout troops, sports teams, etc. There were floats from local businesses, fire trucks, antique cars, horses, everything.
What put the Bah in the Humbug of the parade was the Knoxville Police Department. On too short notice to reroute, the parade in 2017 was cancelled in mid-November due to safety concerns about the south bound traffic continuing on Broadway, according to a letter sent out at the time from parade chair Bill Gentry. He added that the police department felt it was too much to completely shut down Broadway for the entire route.
What was asked then is still asked now: it wasn’t a problem for more than 40 years; why is it a problem now? All sorts of communities out in the county can have their parades every year, but Fountain City can’t possibly shut down for a minute to have theirs? It seems the increase in population and traffic in all points north of Fountain City is the greatest contributing factor. The solution seems to be to shorten the route and remove most of it from Broadway.
Personally, I think if there is any hope of resurrecting the parade, it needs to start at Central, run up Essary to Broadway, turn right on Broadway, then right into Central Baptist Church. Sorry, KPD, but if we’re going to have a parade, we HAVE to use part of Broadway and it has to go through the heart of Fountain City: meaning past the lake the par and Hotel Avenue. I think it’s doable.
Sources: Knoxville News Sentinel Digital Archives