The annual Cody Cowboy Christmas – a combination of downtown events capped off with a lighted parade and the arrival of Santa Claus – is a a community capstone to the holiday season.
To accommodate the various activities, each year the Cody Chamber and its affiliate Cody Events Committee ask the city council for permission to close streets to traffic along Sheridan.
Typically, city leaders approve the street closures without issue. But on Nov. 5 when organizers asked the council to approve closing five blocks along Sheridan from 4-8 p.m. on Nov. 30, the request was met with resistance.
Several councilors told event organizers they do not support asking city employees to work the Saturday after Thanksgiving because it interrupts a four-day break for workers who must be on duty to assist with traffic control, street blockades, garbage collection and other related tasks.
Prior to the 6-1 council vote, councilwoman Heidi Rasmussen said she would vote no because she did not like requiring city employees to work on the city’s only four-day closure (two work days and two weekend days).
“People are stuck working on a holiday and not only on a holiday but in the middle of a holiday,” she said, adding further objection to the expense the city incurrs for providing a service that requires overtime pay.
The city uses its portion of lodging tax funds to cover event costs estimated at $2,200 this year.
“I’m not sure it’s a good use of our ‘less-than-steller’ budget dollars,” Rasmussen said.
Landon Greer, council president, said he is also concerned about staff losing out on a four-day break.
City public works and streets employees work on a lot of holidays throughout the year, in addition to the Christmas event, he said.
Greer said he would approve the request this time.
“But if it comes up next year, I would be a hard ‘no’ vote,” he said.
Tina Hoebelheinrich, chamber executive director, said whether the events committee will move away from Thanksgiving weekend in 2020 is not something they’ve yet considered.
“We’re focused on having an amazing event this year,” she said. “The amount of participation on Sheridan Avenue is better than ever.”
The Cody Events Committee is made up of a group of volunteers who organize the annual shopping season kick-off in addition to other community events.
“It’s not just a chamber of commerce decision and we think it’s a complicated issue,” Hoebelheinrich said. “We’re focusing on the best outcome for the businesses we support and for the community.”
She noted the chosen date of Nov. 30 this year coincides with Black Friday and Shop Small Business Saturday.
“It’s not really because it’s Thanksgiving weekend,” Hoebelheinrich said. “It’s because of Shop Small Business Saturday, which has so much national advertising to get people to shop local that day. It highlights local businesses and they really are the lifeblood of every community.”