Fernandina Beach City Commission cancels holiday events


Shrimp Drop, Christmas parade canceled due to COVID-19 concerns

  • Because of COVID-19 concerns, Fernandina Beach City Commission voted to cancel this year's Shrimp Drop and Christmas parade
    Because of COVID-19 concerns, Fernandina Beach City Commission voted to cancel this year's Shrimp Drop and Christmas parade

The holidays will look much different as the Fernandina Beach City Commission on Tuesday evening canceled Christmas events, including an annual parade and the traditional New Year’s Eve Shrimp Drop, both of which brought thousands to the city each year.

“Nobody wants to cancel these events,” Commissioner Mike Lednovich said. “ Everybody wants to have a holiday,” Commissioner Mike Lednovich said. “But, what is the wise thing to do to protect our loved ones, our neighbors and our relatives?”

At the Nov. 17 commission meeting, people addressed the commission, asking them to consider allowing events such as the Shrimp Drop and Stuff the Turkey 5K.

Light Up Amelia Vice President Charlie Corbett said his organization modified its plans for the Shrimp Drop in order for families with children to enjoy the New Year’s Eve event. Light Up Amelia sponsors fireworks shows for the Shrimp Drop and July Fourth.

In an effort to reduce COVID-19 transmissions, Corbett said there would be no vendors and the waterfront parking lot would be closed to ensure people didn’t gather in large groups.

He noted Light Up Amelia would lose money if it could not have the show, which lasts 10 to 20 minutes.

“Let the people of Fernandina decide if they would like to come down,” Corbett requested of the commission.

Sarah Pelican echoed Corbett’s thoughts.

“I appreciate what Mr. Lednovich said, ‘don’t share air,’ but we are all in here sharing air, and I don’t know how the heck we are supposed to live if we don’t share air,” Pelican said. “People who are compromised don’t have to go out. If people don’t want to go down there, they don’t have to go.”

“My concern is that all of these events would be classified by the (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) as highest risk,” Vice Mayor Len Kreger said. “Thirty-one percent of the population in Fernandina Beach is over 65. If you were to look at the rest of the population under 65 who are at risk, we are probably 50% at risk in this community. We have very limited things we can do. We are preempted significantly by state law. This is one thing we can do.”

Commissioner Chip Ross, a physician, said that while he supported canceling the Christmas parade, he believes consideration of the other events is “a little more nuanced,” and the Shrimp Drop could be reconsidered in December. Commissioner Phil Chapman referred to recommendations by the CDC, which limiting keeping holiday gatherings to household members. He said canceling events would help prevent businesses from having to close and “shutting down the economy.”

Mayor Johnny Miller said the public has been asked to keep their distance and wear masks in public, but “they are not doing what they said they are going to do.” He said his job as a bartender at the Palace Saloon, a local bar, has given him “a unique perspective” on the attitude of the public toward guidelines intended to curb the spread of coronavirus.

“People, for the last eight months, repeatedly come in saying things like, ‘It’s over after the election, masks don’t work, masks are a hoax, masks make it worse,’ consistently throughout the day,” Miller said. “These are the people who are going to show up, the ones who aren’t taking it seriously. Any argument that any of us here want to cancel any special event, it’s completely untrue. I would love to see these things take place. I need it. My coworkers need these things to come back. But this is the worse time possible. For us to do this at this point, when we have been doing everything we can, makes no sense to me.”

The commission voted unanimously to cancel Christmas parade and Shrimp Drop, and not to allow any events that would attract a crowd.