White Elephant Parade

Walden Grove High School marches in the White Elephant Parade in 2018.

The Country Fair White Elephant Parade is canceled until at least 2024, and perhaps forever, so the organization can pump more money into the community, according to its board president.

The 15-member board made the unanimous decision Monday.

“That’s a tradition that’s hard to abandon, but we felt it was in the best interest of the community,” said Ivars Vecbastiks, president of the Board of Directors. “We’ve been tossing this thing around for several months.”

He said the last parade, in 2019, was more than $20,000, and that costs — shouldered entirely by the CFWE — were only growing.

The board also has canceled twice-yearly appreciation dinners for volunteers and will opt for a lower-cost luncheon. Vecbastiks said that was driven by an older volunteer base that finds it more difficult to drive at night, and to savings that could go toward helping others.

“We want to make sure that we limit our expenses and send that money to the people in our community because the needs are greater today than two years ago,” he said.

The volunteer dinners ran about $40,000 per year.

Last year, despite being closed for more than half the year, the CFWE pumped nearly $600,000 into the community. That was far off the 2019 figure of $1.7 million.

Vecbastiks said they will give out more this year but not nearly what they have in the past, another reason to cut expenses.

The annual parade, which drew thousands of people from Tucson to Nogales, has long been among the most popular community events in Green Valley. Since launching in 1964, it had only been canceled twice until COVID-19 arrived in 2020 — in 1965 when ownership of the East Social Center changed hands, the site of many of the events associated with the fair; and in 1973 due to rain.

White Elephant General Manager Karen Lavo announced in March that the 2021 parade was canceled in part because they couldn’t guarantee they would be able to meet Pima County regulations for outdoor events. She referenced the costs involved for added security and to have a designated COVID-19 safety official on site during the event, a county requirement at the time.

“It’s almost impossible to be able to cover all that,” she said.

Vecbastiks added Tuesday that liability kept increasing “because people are becoming more litigious, and if something happens, we’d bear the brunt of that.”

He said the parade could be back in 2024 — the White Elephant’s 60th anniversary — or not at all. He expressed a hope that perhaps Green Valley could host a parade or somebody would come up with a more community-wide event.

“But at least until that time, it’s dead,” he said.

This is the second community event to apparently go by the wayside in the wake of COVID-19. Last week, FICO announced it will lay off 130 people by year’s end and close The Pecan Store early next year. It said no final decision had been made on The Pecan Festival, launched 2009, but didn’t offer much hope it would continue.

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