Just days after being canceled, the 9th annual North Dakota Autumnfest Parade is now officially back on for Saturday, September 20, with a number of stipulations. In speaking with Parade Chairman, Scott Johnson, he outlined what went into the initial decision to cancel the parade and the decision making process to get the annual event back on track.

The cancelation was the result of new railroad regulations stating that trains would no longer stop for parades (Autumnfest is routed directly over the tracks on 5th St.). Johnson said he was contacted by Bismarck Police Department's Deputy Chief Randy Ziegler on September 2, who said the railroad company had unequivocally stated they would no longer stop for parades, which was the first time parade officials had heard anything definitively about the matter.

On Tuesday, September 9, Johnson met with Bill Wolken, City Administrator. They discussed all available options for keeping the parade scheduled, including re-routing to avoid the train tracks. Based on the amount of steps that would be involved to change the original plan, including public hearings and official documentation, they came to the conclusion there was no feasible way to make it happen in a timely manner. Thus, they made the official decision to cancel the parade.

Wednesday, September 10 was met with a flurry of public outcry once news of the cancelation began to spread. Based on public feedback, Wolken called Johnson on Thursday, September 11 to revisit all possible options of keeping the parade as scheduled.

After lengthy discussions, the decision was ultimately made to keep the 2014 Autumnfest Parade on its originally scheduled date of Saturday, September 20 at 10am, with a number of stipulations, including:

  • Spectators are asked to stay north of Main St.
  • Parade organizers have to pay for an additional 6 police officers
  • There will be a no viewing zone 100 feet from the railroad tracks
  • Parade officials must invest in a sizable insurance policy

The six additional police officers will be stationed by the railroad (the trains will NOT stop for parades - that has not changed). Four of the officers will be around 5th & Main St. and 5th & Front St. to keep spectators out of the no viewing zone. The other two officers will be used as scouts on the east and west sides of town to keep an eye out for any incoming trains and warn the appropriate individuals in the event one comes.

In just one day, parade officials have received over $1000 from various supporters to help pay for the unexpected costs to keep the parade going.

Above all else, Johnson wanted to keep the parade scheduled for the kids that have worked tirelessly preparing for it. "It's nice to get recognition for the fabric of the community [in this parade]," said Johnson. "That's what it's all about and we don't want to lose that."

If you're interested in getting an entry in the 2014 Autumnfest Parade, register online or fill out a registration form and send it to:

117 N 4th St.
Bismarck, ND 58501

Johnson expressed optimism for future parades, even saying this was a great opportunity to reevaluate the planning process (including the route) and try to make it better for years to come, "We are willing to do anything to make it bigger and better."

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