MIDDLETOWN — Five minutes before the Middletown Christmas Parade was set to travel down Main Street (U.S. 11) on Sunday afternoon, it was canceled as a result of car crashes on interstates 81 and 66.

The Virginia Department of Transportation had to pull the parade’s permit because U.S. 11, also known as Valley Pike, was needed as an alternate route to relieve highway traffic, which was heavy on Sunday as people headed home from the Thanksgiving holiday or back to college on roads that were slick from cold, rainy conditions.

The annual parade, which was slated to step off at 2 p.m., temporarily closes the section of U.S. 11 that runs through the town.

“It’s just really disappointing for the parade committee,” said Middletown Mayor Charles Harbaugh IV, noting that the parade took six months to plan.

It will not be rescheduled.

This year’s parade had more than 100 entries and the most horses ever, according to Harbaugh, who called the cancellation “a bummer.”

This is the first time in the parade’s six-year history that it has been called off. Typically, it’s a rain or shine event. A light drizzle was falling when participants were told the event had to be canceled.

Even though the parade was nixed, children still got a chance to meet Santa Claus at the Middletown Fire Department. Harbaugh said the line to meet Santa was out the door. Children who attended got a present and a chance to do some holiday coloring.

“We salvaged something,” Harbaugh said.

— Contact Anna Merod at amerod@winchesterstar.com

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