June 15, 2024

Driver busts through barricade during Downtown Billings Holiday Parade

In the midst of the 38th annual Downtown Billings Holiday Parade beneath Skypoint, a disconcerting event unfolded on the Friday following Thanksgiving. A vehicle brazenly breached barricades, careening towards the oncoming procession. The potential calamity narrowly avoided a child as the driver sought escape from the cordoned-off street. While a major crisis was averted, organizers express that barricade transgressions constitute a pervasive issue.

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As we eagerly awaited the parade’s commencement, an unforeseen spectacle materialized – a maroon car navigating through the area,” recounts Brooke Bath, a spectator at the Billings parade. “Questions arose: Is the driver lost? Unfamiliar with Billings, perhaps?”

This incident caught everyone off guard, including myself. I was providing live coverage of the parade alongside Q2 meteorologist Miller Robson, who, in jest, remarked, “Perhaps they simply desired a front-row vantage point.”

The Downtown Billings Alliance, the parade’s sponsor, notes a recurrent trend where individuals proffer similar justifications for flouting established regulations. “The need for proximity seems to be a prevailing sentiment. Many are reluctant to circumvent the block or invest an additional two minutes in seeking an alternative route. We’ve encountered all manner of excuses for non-compliance with barricades,” states Lexie Mann, Events Director at Downtown Billings Alliance.

Since the 2019 holiday parade, the number of vehicular barricades in Downtown Billings has surged from 37 to 55. Despite this increase, the DBA reports that during the 2023 holiday parade alone, 30 vehicles breached the barricades. Remarkably, Billings police were in the process of addressing another barricade transgressor when the now infamous vehicle traversed Skypoint.

“My colleague, Lindsay Richardson, promptly intervened, guiding the driver to safety. She had to sprint and intercept the rapidly moving vehicle amidst the crowd,” recounts Mann.

Instances like these evoke haunting memories of a deliberate assault on a holiday parade in Wisconsin two years prior, resulting in six fatalities and 62 injuries. Although the Billings parade concluded without injuries, Downtown Billings is no stranger to this worrisome pattern.

“People exit their vehicles, physically manipulate the barricades, and intrude without authorization,” reveals Joe Stout, supervisor of DBA’s Billings Improvement District. This necessitates constant vigilance on the part of workers, all while harboring the hope that adherence to regulations becomes the norm.

“I sincerely wish that individuals would respect our sealed-off streets,” expresses Stout. “The presence of barricades signifies restricted access to that area,” adds Mann. “Pedestrians, relishing the ambiance of downtown streets, may be engaged in post-event cleanup.”

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