People in costume dance along Water Street in Hallowell as part of the 2019 Halloween parade. The parade was canceled this year after organizers did not obtain liability insurance in time. Courtesy of Axell Photography

HALLOWELL — The Halloween Parade, one of four parades typically held annually in Hallowell, has been canceled this year.

Organizers of the event say it was called off because they were not able to secure liability insurance in time.

City officials have been demanding proof that events are covered with liability insurance, even though the City Council has not voted to make it a requirement for obtaining a parade permit. There are no policies on the city’s website outlining these rules.

Mayor George Lapointe said the intent is to protect the city’s taxpayers from being on the hook if someone gets injured or property is damaged during an event.

The news comes as parades are under scrutiny in the city, with officials recently launching a probe into public safety needs and training protocols after members of the Hallowell Pride Alliance alleged the volunteer fire department had failed to fulfill its duties and discriminated against the LGBTQ community.

“So many (organizers of) public events, including past parades, assumed that they were insured by the city, but it’s not true,” said City Manager Gary Lamb. “We got very clear direction from our insurers that unless the City Council appoints the board for the organizing group, or the funds go through the city’s books, we are not supposed to be insuring any public event.”


A costume-clad group walks the deserted streets of Hallowell at dusk on Halloween in 2022. Because of an issue getting insurance, this year’s parade has been canceled. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal file

Roger Pomerleau, a member of the Hallowell Board of Trade — the nonprofit that puts on the event — said he understands the need to call off the parade.

“No municipality anywhere should risk an event without insurance,” Pomerleau said. “If they sign off on a permit, they are a party to it, and if something happens, they can be legally held liable,” Pomerleau said.

He said the council had recommended he get insurance last year, but he started the process in late August and underestimated the time it would take to complete.

“It’s tough to find suitable insurers — they have demands, and coverage is not always adequate,” he said.

He added that the group had enough funds and had secured limited insurance, but it only covered what happened within the parade. So, for example, if a random vehicle were to run into the parade, the policy would not cover damages that ensued.

Pomerleau said he “ran out of time” and could not bring his group to vote on an insurance plan, let alone seek the council’s approval or apply for a parade permit.


Onlookers observe the Halloween parade in Hallowell in 2019. This year’s parade has been canceled due to an insurance issue.  Courtesy of Axell Photography

To ensure this doesn’t happen again, Pomerleau said he will aim to start well in advance for future parades, including the Mardi Gras parade in February, which he said he plans to start working on soon.

The Pride Alliance entertained a similar demand for liability insurance before the Pride Parade earlier this year and ended up paying $400 for insurance coverage.

“The city pays for the Old Hallowell Day Parade, but for other events, the organizers have to pay,” said Pride Alliance President Alex AuCoin. “Although it’s unclear if the requirement is mandated as the council hasn’t voted on it.”

Lamb, the city manager, said city officials have been considering requiring events to be insured for a long time.

“They (City Council) have been discussing this for over a year, and they know they need to tighten up,” he said. “They need to have a workshop and discuss many things like citywide fees, giving out waivers, renting out buildings. It has been so loose in the past; we haven’t been charging enough for these things.”

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