The retiring producer of the Milwaukee Holiday Parade cited construction of the city's streetcar as a factor in her family's decision to stop running the parade, a decision that leaves the annual event's future in doubt.
Citing what she called a "perfect storm" of funding issues and construction projects impacting the parade route, organizer Suzanne DeGrace Spaeth announced Wednesday that her family would retire after 53 years of running the parade.
“There is a lot of great construction going on in Milwaukee and the landscape of Milwaukee is changing but it does present kind of an issue when you’re trying to put on a parade and you stage and de-stage in various locations,” she said. "As difficult as this is, it's time for us to retire and for someone else to come in and make it their own."
It is unclear whether anyone will, meaning that last year's parade may very well have been the last. The Milwaukee Holiday parade has been held every year since 1927. It had only been delayed once--after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963.
DeGrace Spaeth said a major issue was financing, as Boston Store was the parade's main sponsor. Its parent company, Bon-Ton Stores, Inc., filed for bankruptcy earlier this year and is closing down all of its Boston Store locations.
Construction of The Hop, Milwaukee's new streetcar system, also played a pivotal role in DeGrace Spaeth's decision to step down.
The parade's route down E. Kilbourn Ave. Old World 3rd St. to would have been greatly impacted by the laying of streetcar tracks on Kilbourn. The Hop will run on the parade's route on Kilbourn from N. Jackson St. to N. Broadway with two stops being constructed along the parade route.
That, according to DeGrace Spaeth, would have meant a logistical nightmare in putting the parade together.
While it is possible that the parade could find a new route, new main sponsor, and new organizer in time to step off on its scheduled date of Saturday, November 17th, that is considered unlikely.