BALLSTON SPA — Organizers of the village’s annual holiday parade have no plans to adjust security protocols prior to the event stepping off next month after an SUV driver crashed into a similar event in a Milwaukee suburb, killing at least five people and wounding dozens more on Sunday.
Dana Womer, a co-organizer of the Ballston Spa Holiday Parade & Tree Lighting, said she is confident in the event’s safety plans despite what unfolded in Waukesha, Wisconsin this past weekend.
“We are actually sticking by our safety protocol plan that we’ve had in place for the last few years,” she said.
Safety is a top priority for organizers who work closely with the village police department to implement the plan, said Womer, which includes blocking off all side streets along the two-mile parade route that extends up Milton Avenue using Department of Public Works vehicles and police barricades.
Ballston Spa police did not return a request seeking comment.
Upwards of 1,000 people are expected to attend the Dec. 3 event, which was canceled last year because of the pandemic.
Womer said a visible public safety presence will also be seen throughout the crowd during the event, with various checkpoints set up along the route.
“It’s something that we’ve thought about for a few years and we already have plans in place,” she said.
Similar protocols were in place during the Schenectady Holiday Parade on Saturday, which saw scores of people flood the downtown area to celebrate the return of the event, one of the largest nighttime parades in the country.
The parade went off without any problems, but the events of Waukesha this past weekend are certainly something police will consider when preparing for next year’s installment, according to Patrick Irwin, the public information officer for the city’s police department.
“What happened in Wisconsin was certainly on our radar, so it will definitely be something we’re just going to have to reevaluate what happened there and if it’s something that could happen here,” he said.
Side streets along the parade route were blocked off by DPW vehicles to ensure no vehicles had access to the parade route Saturday, Irwin said.
He said 70 city police officers were on hand during the parade, and officers swept the parade route for suspicious packages prior to the event kicking off. Officers were “strategically placed” throughout the crowd, including several who were stationed on rooftops.
Irwin declined to provide additional information about where the officers were stationed.
State Police and deputies from the Schenectady County Sheriff’s Office were also present during the event at various checkpoints.
Investigators are still piecing together what occurred in Waukesha, though an arrest has been made in connection with that incident.
Police say Darrel Brooks Jr. had just left the scene of a domestic disturbance prior to driving his SUV into the crowd, killing five. Prosecutors have charged him with five counts of first-degree intentional homicide.
Brooks was out on $1,000 bail for a previous domestic incident earlier this month where he stands accused of trying to run over the mother of his child in a gas station parking lot, according to police there.
He is set to appear in court Tuesday morning.
Womer, meanwhile, said she understands that some people may be hesitant to attend the parade in light of what transpired, but said she is confident with the safety protocols organizers have in place.
“I have the full confidence in the Ballston Spa public safety services and I feel completely safe having my children attend and myself attend the parade,” she said.
Contact reporter Chad Arnold at: 518-410-5117 or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @ChadGArnold.