PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB) — The Panama City Jaycees founded Panama City’s annual Christmas parade in the 1950s.
“Kicked off the Christmas season, everybody, when when I quit being the president, I mean, ten years later, after a decade later, people would still call me and say, what’s going to be the theme for the parade”, former Jaycees President Tom Najjar said.
The Jaycees have used the parade proceeds to provide Christmas for various groups of at-risk children.
“Provide Christmas to children at Tinder Loving Care, which is a prescribed pediatric early learning center, basically a daycare for children with multiple medical issues, and each year we partner with some other organizations” parade organizer Randy Windham said.
But Friday morning, Panama City officials informed the current Jaycee leaders the city is taking over the event.
“We found out recently that they’ve lost their nonprofit status,” Assistant City Manager Jared Jones said.
City officials also said each year they find themselves doing more of the work.
“As their organization has gotten smaller, we’ve picked up more and more of the event organizer duties,” Jones said.
Which includes law enforcement.
“They still have to have police officers there, the expenses that the city incurred certainly are viable expenses. But they’re not going to go away,” Najjar said.
Windham said Friday’s decision blindsided him.
“We understand transitions happen and things need to be different but to come in at the last minute and tell us we’re taking over and you’re out, it was it was rather shocking,” Windham said.
Regardless, Windham said he will cherish the memories.
“Pick Santa up and bring him back to his sleigh off of the fire truck and see the kids and the joy and the happiness that it brings, that’s a part of my life that I’ll miss that I really enjoyed,” Windham said.
Despite the change, the parade will happen this December.
“Making it a great family event, safe for the community, and just making sure that the Christmas spirit is alive and well, I only see an upside and if the Jaycees come alongside us and participate with us, we’ll be even more happy,” Jones said.
City officials say they’re working on the applications for people and organizations that want to participate in the parade.