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South Charleston steps in to host funeral parade

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- South Charleston city officials are stepping in to host the annual funeral parade held in neighboring Charleston for decades.

Organizers of the annual event canceled the downtown parade earlier this month after Charleston restaurateur Scott Miller, the major sponsor, backed out. The funeral parade is usually held over Labor Day weekend.

The funeral parade was part of Charleston's annual Sternwheel Regatta until Mayor Danny Jones killed the regatta. Miller had stepped in to provide major funding for the event the past three years, but said he was dropping out this year because of poor attendance and because the date of the parade conflicted with the Marshall-WVU football game.

However, Bob Anderson, executive director of the South Charleston Convention and Visitors Bureau, said South Charleston will host the parade this year. Anderson said officials at the Mardi Gras Casino & Resort in Nitro, which has helped with the parade the past two years, have agreed to enter a float in the parade and provide prizes, beads and other accoutrements for the event.

City officials already have insurance coverage for downtown South Charleston and are making arrangements for bands and other entertainment for the parade, Anderson said.

"We're excited to have it as a new event in South Charleston," Anderson said.

The new date for the funeral parade is Sunday, Sept. 9 at 3 p.m.

South Charleston Mayor Frank Mullens said Anderson proposed hosting the event earlier this week.

Charleston Mayor Danny Jones said funeral parade organizers had never come to the city to ask for help for the funeral parade. He said organizers can move the event if they wish.

"I'm glad there's going to be a funeral parade," Jones said. "I wish it were in Charleston, but if they want to take it to South Charleston, that's their business."

However, Keith Pickens, who has been the parade's grand marshal in Charleston for the past decade, said he would not be participating in the South Charleston event. He said parade organizers hope to revive the Charleston parade next year.

"We wanted to keep it on Capitol Street," Pickens said. "It's a historic location, and it's always been on Capitol Street."

Pickens said organizers may have the parade earlier in the season next year.

"We're trying to work it in with FestivALL, and we're trying to find new sponsors," Pickens said. Charleston holds the annual FestivALL arts festival in June.

Reach Rusty Marks at rustymarks@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1215.


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