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To wave or not to wave, that is the question.

You can’t see much though a rubber face mask. This is especially true to me. Without my glasses and at any distance beyond 4 inches, the best I can make out are large fuzzy blobs and movement.

Every year my family and I volunteer with the Abbotsford Christmas Parade. Our roles are small ones, we show up put on costumes and masks, and walk the parade route waving at hordes of families and children, after which we change and go home to eat chili, drink egg nog and watch Christmas movies.

The organizers of the event, led by The Star News General Manager Kris O’Leary and her family, put in hundreds of hours before and after each year’s parade. I have been involved in enough events to know that being an organizer is a thankless task involving many sleepless nights in the best of times. With challenges like this year, anyone willing to take on the monumental task of organizing an event should be nominated for sainthood.

Like so many things this year, pandemic concerns resulted in changes and challenges, most notably the switch to a drive-thru parade with the floats and costumed characters remaining still while hundreds of people drive past. By my count about 862 vehicles came through including at least one convertible with its top down and an RV that appeared to be having a party going on in it.

My job was a simple one, wave at the people as they pass by. I was dressed as Hagrid from the Harry Potter series and was standing with my son, Alex, who was dressed as Dumbledore. My wife and daughter were elsewhere along the route dressed as Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum.

The waving gig worked pretty well, especially if traffic kept moving along. Occasionally, however, the flow would come to a standstill — usually as someone attempted to take pictures or see the detail of a float or share greetings with someone they knew. This is when things got challenging.

How long should I wave before things get weird? Does it matter if they are waving at me too? Who should stop waving first? The seconds ticked by feeling like an eternity in these waving standoffs as neither I nor the over-excited youngsters in their minivans would yield. Fortunately, the line of vehicles lurched forward and I was able to relax for a few seconds before waving at the next vehicle in line.

Alex and I would periodically trade off ducking behind a nearby float and, out of sight of attendees, take off our mask for a breather and to let some of the accumulated condensation out.

While it would have been easy for the organizers of the Abbotsford Christmas Parade to blame it on COVID-19 and take the year off, it is important that they did not. Instead they chose to rethink, regroup and reinvent the event for this year keeping the holiday tradition alive.

America is at its best when in times of challenge, people step up to innovate and create ways to overcome those obstacles. As we look forward into the holiday season, it will take additional creativity and reinvention to ensure a safe holiday season for everyone.


Since retiring to Georgia, former Gilman Cheese owner Tom Hand has started writing an American history column for his community’s newspaper. He recently launched a blog called It is a nonpolitical blog mirroring his newspaper column featuring positive stories of early America.

The motivation for the blog and newspaper column was Hand’s desire to help spread the American Word, a positive message of America’s founding and first century of expansion. Hand’s hope is to remind his fellow citizens why we all should be grateful for the blessings of this wonderful country.

As someone who has enjoyed the stories of early America since growing up, it is always good to see these stories retold and shared for new generations.

Brian Wilson is News Editor at The Star News.