Rise in insurance costs leads to cancellation of Beaumont Christmas parade

Marilyn Tennissen Oct. 31, 2011, 6:15am

The city of Beaumont has announced it will not hold its annual Christmas parade this year, "a result of increased insurance costs" and other problems.

"The Beaumont Chamber of Commerce, which organizes and manages the street parade each year, is unable to participate due to increased insurance costs associated with the event," an Oct. 28 press release states.

The Beaumont Chamber found itself in a difficult position after a young girl was killed during the 2008 parade. The family of Aaliyah Carter, 11, has filed a $3 million wrongful death suit against the Chamber.

Although neither the accident nor the litigation are mentioned as reasons for the cancellation of the parade, Chamber President Jim Rich told the Southeast Texas Record that the Chamber's insurance carrier has dropped its coverage.

Rich said the Chamber could have purchased an expensive special event policy, but decided it was not an expense they could handle.

"It is not our core mission to fund a parade," Rich said in an email.

Aaliyah Carter was killed during the Beaumont Christmas parade on Dec. 6, 2008. She had been aboard a float sponsored by the Beaumont I-Rule Dance Studio.

According to the Beaumont Enterprise, witnesses told Beaumont police that Aaliyah jumped off the 21-foot lowboy trailer float and had been running along beside it when she tripped over another young girl and fell.

The driver was unaware that she had fallen in the road and the wheels of the trailer ran over her, causing severe head trauma. The girl was taken to Christus Hospital St. Elizabeth, where she was pronounced dead, the article states.

Her parents assert in their suit, filed Nov. 9, 2010, that the Beaumont Chamber sponsored and managed the 2008 Christmas Holiday Festival & Parade and therefore is responsible for the events that transpired.

The Chamber filed a response to the suit in April, asserting a general denial of any negligence on its part.

The press release from the city of Beaumont also stated that the annual boat parade, which drew a large crowd to Riverfront Park last year, could not be held because the park is undergoing extensive renovations.

"The parade takes a large amount of resources in terms of funding, logistics, and personnel," said Claudie Hawkins, Director of the Civic Center Complex. "Because of renovations going on in the park, and loss of our Chamber partner, we felt that we couldn't put on the caliber of event this year that citizens have come to expect."

The parade is usually scheduled for the first Saturday in December. The city plans to bring back its Christmas celebration in 2012, and will evaluate what activities will be included at that time.

The Greater Beaumont Chamber of Commerce is an accredited member of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The Southeast Texas Record is owned by the Institute for Legal Reform, an affiliate of the U.S. Chamber. The Record has no direct affiliation with the Beaumont Chamber.

The wrongful death suit is Case No. A188-767.

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