HEBER/OVERGAARD — A decades-long signature event that kicks off the Independence Day holiday weekend won’t be happening this year.
The annual Fourth of July parade in Heber/Overgaard, long considered the kickoff event for Fourth of July events, has been canceled because a permit request for a parade did not meet adequate traffic and crowd control arrangements. This includes certified staff and barricades for the parade.
The annual fireworks show at Mogollon High School and other July 4th weekend activities will continue as planned, including the Friday night program at Capps Middle School, Carissa’s Run on Saturday, Pancake Breakfast and all of the other activities at Tall Timbers County Park.
According to the Heber-Overgaard Chamber of Commerce’s website and Facebook page, the Arizona Department of Transportation denied the permit request earlier this month.
“We are sad to inform our community that as a result of this new request, the chamber of commerce will be canceling this year’s parade,” the chamber’s website states. “Please know that everyone involved in the planning of our parade has tried to resolve this in various different ways and are truly sad to make this decision. We will do our best to try and resolve these issues for next year’s parade.”
Chamber officials and volunteers said ADOT’s decision concerns a new requirement that traffic and crowd control services be provided by a professional certified traffic control company. Officials added that, in past years, ADOT had permitted the parade to take place without the new requirement since the Navajo County Sheriff’s Office and the Arizona Department of Public Safety were present and assisted.
According to the chamber, both law enforcement agencies expressed concerns about limited resources and safety issues from previous years. But according to Navajo County Sheriff K.C. Clark, he was shocked to learn the parade permit request had been denied.
“At the beginning of each year, the chamber submits their permit application for this event and those throughout the year,” he said. “They are always early and organized. This was a shock to us here at the sheriff’s office and DPS. We really expected that ADOT would allow us to manage the event as in previous years.”
Brandon Martineau, the new president of the Heber-Overgaard chamber, said while NCSO, the sheriff’s auxiliary volunteers and DPS have “done an amazing job helping us with this event,” those agencies were unable to provide and staff and resources necessary to have it.
“If an emergency occurs in another area and they are called to respond, the must leave,” he said. “This can create areas of risk and liability for the town. So, in that respect, we understand and will do our best to make sure we have everything in place for next year.”
There is still a chance the chamber could resubmit the permit request and receive ADOT approval, but it’s not likely. The chamber faces three big challenges in obtaining the requirement:
- The cost of hiring a private, certified company is approximately $10,000.
- The short notice from ADOT leaves little time for the chamber to raise the money.
- Finding a company that is available for the Fourth of July event and willing to travel from the Phoenix area has, as of press time, proven impossible as phone calls to these professional service companies have not been returned, chamber officials said.
“We have called several companies and no one will even call back,” Martineau said. “Several community members have graciously offered to help, but it’s a large amount of money to procure in such a small time frame. We will most likely have to revisit and prepare for the new ADOT requirement for next year’s parade.”
John Hendrix, former board member and longtime volunteer said the yearly parade is always an enormous undertaking for the chamber.
“Even if they could come up with the money, they would have to find a barricade company that is available for the Fourth of July,” he said. “In addition, the cost of fireworks increased by 20 percent this year.”