AOP parade route changed to improve safety

DeHaan: ‘I hope the community understands, it’s about safety, it’s not about anything else’

Connor Ware, 3, of Oregon, was given a chance to bang one of the drums of the Crystal Lake Strikers Drum Line during the 2022 Harvest Time Parade at the Autumn on Parade festival in Oregon.

OREGON – It’s a sad sign of the times we’re living in, an unapologetic City Manager Darin DeHaan said Aug. 15, after announcing changes to the parade route for the popular Autumn on Parade festival.

At the behest of the Ogle County Sheriff’s Office, and with input from the Oregon police and fire departments, the safety plan for Autumn on Parade is getting an update.

Oregon’s biggest festival, which attracts thousands each year, is altering its longtime Harvest Time parade route and implementing the use of drone surveillance, among other measures, in an attempt to ward off any Highland Park or Waukesha, Wisconsin-like attacks.

DeHaan doesn’t want to scare festival-goers – there is no “underlying threat” fueling the decision, he said. “There’s no information that it’s a targeted event. It’s just time to make sure we’re doing the best we can to make it a safe event.”

Sheriff Brian VanVickle’s office approached the city, and the Autumn on Parade Committee, about revising the safety plan.

The committee agreed to alter the parade route to make it easier to monitor the barriers, and for the first time, law enforcement also will be using drones to keep an eye on the rooftops and the crowds, as unobtrusively as possible, said DeHaan, formerly Oregon’s chief of police.

There’s no information that it’s a targeted event. It’s just time to make sure we’re doing the best we can to make it a safe event.”

—  Darin DeHaan, Oregon city manager

“We’ll do everything we can, hopefully in the background,” he said.

More barriers, barricades and police cars will be stationed on side streets, “to discourage vehicular access to the parade route,” DeHaan said in a news release announcing the new route.

Some people have complained online about the smaller, more compact area, which they think will lead to more congestion, but DeHann disagrees with that assessment. A couple of blocks to the north of the old route were removed and replaced with blocks on Adams Street and Washington Street/state Route 64.

The route “is nearly the exact same distance,“ but now it’s more rectangular, and easier to monitor, DeHaan said Tuesday.

The new route will start at Adams and 10th Street, head east on Adams, north on Fourth Street/state Route 2 to Washington/Route 64, then return to Hawk Drive via 10th. The parade no longer will travel on Monroe or North Fifth streets.

The detour around the area will change from Illinois Street to Monroe Street for east and west traffic, and from Webster Street to Clay Street, to access north state Route 2, with the Illinois Department of Transportation’s permission, which is pending but likely.

The two-day downtown festival is Oct. 7 and 8, and the complete schedule can be found at The Harvest Time Parade begins at 1 p.m. that Sunday.

“Our committee has always endeavored to keep the big picture of this event in mind. City and County officials work closely with Autumn on Parade to support many needs. Public safety, comfort and courtesy remain priorities for everyone involved in bringing this annual event to our community,” said AOP President Debbie Dickson. ”We understand that changes to the parade route may be disappointing, perhaps difficult to accept for some. We also believe our parade has been a crown jewel of this family friendly free event since it began. Regardless of which direction or roads traveled, our parade will be fabulous entertainment, so bring your Spooktacular Spirit and join us!”

As for those grumbling about the change, DeHaan said he would encourage them “to Google Highland Park or Waukesha.”

At last year’s Highland Park Fourth of July parade, seven people were killed and 48 were wounded by bullets or shrapnel.

Accused rooftop shooter Robert Eugene Crimo III is charged with 21 counts of first-degree murder, 48 counts of attempted murder, and 48 counts of aggravated battery.

It is one of the two deadliest mass shootings in Illinois history, tied with the 1993 Brown’s Chicken massacre, in which seven people also were killed.

That shooting also prompted law enforcement in agencies nationwide, including those in Sterling, Rock Falls, Dixon and the rest of the Sauk Valley, to reevaluate how they patrol such outdoor events. Many since have added drone surveillance.

Earlier, on Nov. 21, 2021, in Waukesha, a suburb of Milwaukee, Darrell E. Brooks Jr. drove an SUV through its annual Christmas parade, killing six people and injuring 62.

On Nov. 16, Brooks was sentenced to six consecutive life sentences without the possibility of parole, plus 762.5 consecutive years, on six counts of first-degree murder and 71 other charges.

So, DeHaan said, he also can live with people along the old route complaining that the parade no longer passes their homes, spoiling their porch parties. They can find other porches.

“What I can’t do is have something happen and have to face [the victims’] families,” he said. “I hope the community understands, it’s about safety, it’s not about anything else. I just don’t want to see a tragedy happen.”

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Kathleen Schultz

Kathleen A. Schultz

Kathleen Schultz is a Sterling native with 40 years of reporting and editing experience in Arizona, California, Montana and Illinois.