By Jake Browning, The Franklin Press, Tuesday, November 3, 2020 —

Franklin’s Town Council confirmed the cancelation of this year’s Veterans Day Parade and Winter Wonderland, but they also laid out alternatives for each event.

The annual Veterans Day Parade is usually a joint effort between the American Legion, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the Vietnam Veterans of America and the town, but this year, the organizations involved agreed that the risk of spreading COVID-19 outweighs the benefits of holding the events. 

Instead, they’re endorsing a smaller event hosted by the Special Liberty Project, which just opened its new retreat center in the Holly Springs community. Mayor Bob Scott said that the town will lend resources to the Special Liberty Project for the event if necessary, but he still regrets not being able to hold the event in town. 

“We will help them in any way that we can. This apparently has been approved by all of the veterans organizations,” Scott said. “It kind of breaks my heart, though.”

The Special Liberty Project opened their Franklin chapter last month as a place where veterans with disabilities and their families can get away and foster recovery in the great outdoors. Their program on Veterans Day, which will feature music, presentation of colors, a 21-gun salute and remarks from area veterans, county officials and Special Liberty Project staff, will allow 50 in-person attendees via RSVP and will broadcast over the radio for the rest of the county. 

CEO Jessica Merritt said the event will be an important community building effort for the budding new location.

“We really want to make an impact on our community,” Merritt said. “Due to COVID-19, this is the best thing we can do right now to honor our local veterans.”

Those who would like to attend the event in person should RSVP to jessica@special

The traditional two-day festivities of Winter Wonderland are being put on ice over the same infection concerns. To keep residents in the holiday spirit, however, the town will organize a big Christmas display in the town square much like the autumnal one that was used throughout the fall. 

Town officials were pleased with the response to the first display, which encouraged people to visit the downtown area with their families to take pictures and do some shopping but also allowed them to stagger their visits over the course of several weeks.

“That way, people can come at their own leisure throughout the month of December and some of November and have some photo opportunities as well,” said town manager Summer Woodard.

Main Street will still be closed from 4-8 p.m. on Nov. 28 for a small tree lighting ceremony and on Dec. 5 for a Main Street Merchants day, but these events will require social distancing and masks. 

Speaking at the Nov. 2 meeting, Gwen Taylor, president of Streets of Franklin, said this format for Winter Wonderland will work just fine. Merchants were pleased by the response to the Hometown Spirit of Fall celebration held on Halloween and they plan to have more fun activities for residents to enjoy by Dec. 5. 

“It’s awesome. This still gives us another opportunity to do more for the community, especially with the street closed,” Taylor said. “There’s a lot to look forward to.”

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