RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — The City of Raleigh announced Tuesday that they are canceling the Holiday Express celebration at Pullen Park this winter.
The event was canceled last year due to COVID-19. City officials said this year’s event is being canceled because of staffing issues.
“Raleigh Parks has made the difficult decision to cancel Holiday Express for 2021. This event requires an incredible number of staff and volunteers to run successfully. Unfortunately, we are not at a staffing level this year to provide our guests with an exceptional experience,” the city said in a news release.
The release went on to say, “We are very disappointed and know that our community will be too. This is an event we look forward to every year. We are hard at work planning other ways to bring you holiday cheer!”
Oscar Carmona, director of the Raleigh Parks, Recreation & Cultural Resources Department said they are seeing a more than 30 percent reduction in part-time hiring since 2019.
The Department budgeted for 435 full-time positions and as if Tuesday there are about 70 vacancies.
“That has made a huge impact to our operations overall, not only with our special event programming like holiday express but our aquatics, our recreation centers, and some of our summer camp programs as well,” Carmona said. “We really are kind of struggling through a staffing shortage as we speak.”
Holiday Express is one of the city’s most popular holiday events. In the past, tickets have sold at a rate of nearly 1,000 per minute. Tickets sell out in under 30 minutes and sometimes in as little as five minutes when they go on sale every summer.
Carmona said the department is exploring a variety of “outside-the-box” strategies to try and hire more workers, including trying to recruit recent retirees.
However, he said the City has not offered hiring incentives when CBS 17 asked if the city was considering things like higher pay or bonuses.
The holiday event normally runs from early to mid-December.