CINCINNATI -- Cincinnati will celebrate the start of the 2018 Reds season four days after the team's first home game.
The 2018 Reds Opening Day parade will be held on April 2, ahead of the fourth game of the Reds season. The Reds open the season against the Washington Nationals; the Opening Day parade will precede the Reds' home series versus the Cubs.
The parade, officially named the Findlay Market Opening Day Parade, was moved after a vote by the merchants of Findlay Market, according to a news release.
The change came as two of Cincinnati's great loves -- Opening Day and Catholicism -- were pitted against one another due to a change in MLB rules. On March 29 (a Thursday) the season begins. Reds Opening Day is typically on a Monday.
There are a few reasons that changing Opening Day to a Thursday isn't preferable: First, Findlay Market is open and bustling on Thursdays. On Mondays, shops are open at the merchants' discretion.
Second, March 29 isn't any Thursday -- it's Holy Thursday. This is the beginning of the Easter weekend, which, for some, means lots of relatives in town for mass and large brunches. Findlay Market said the Easter holiday is a busy time for the shops.
In a news release about the change, Findlay Market directly points to Easter weekend as a reason for the decision. "Due to the impact that closing the Thursday of the Easter holidays will have thousands of Findlay Market customers and the small, independent businesses that make up Findlay Market."
Parade Committee Chairman Neil Luken said the decision was difficult.
"I love the excitement that the Opening Day Parade brings to the city each year," he said in the news release. "However, we had to consider the small, independent businesses that make up Findlay Market and the loyal shoppers who rely on the market being open for their family gatherings."
Luken also owns Neil Luken Meats.
The scheduled 2018 Opening Day date is the earliest in Reds history. The previous earliest Reds' Opening Day was March 31 in 1998, 2003, 2008, 2011 and 2014. The Nationals have never played here on Opening Day, though their predecessors, the Montreal Expos, opened here in 1970, '87, '93 and '96.
In 1994, the Reds opened the season with a Sunday night game, which caused controversy due to unseasonably chilly weather, there was no parade and the game fell on Easter Sunday.
The change took place as ESPN broadcast its first season opener, which led to heavy promotion by the network. Then-owner Marge Schott was particularly displeased. She told fans and players to treat the home opener "like an exhibition," wrote Mark Tomasik, then-sports editor for the Cincinnati Post. Schott promised more floats, more flair and "300 pigeons" in Monday's parade.
Luken said he hopes April 2 will feel like Opening Day.
"We're going to hope that we can rekindle the Opening Day atmosphere four days later," he said. "We're hoping that we can still draw the same enthusiasm and the same type of crowd that we have before."
Luken said merchants need to move perishable food, so "coming to a complete standstill" would really harm business.
"We're not selling tires or clothes, we're selling food," Luken said. "I mean, we got to sell that stuff."
Pat Matthews of Lebanon said he doesn't mind a separation between the Opening Day parade and the game.
"I would not be opposed because it would give me a chance to come down two days rather than just one," Matthews said. "When you come for the parade, you can concentrate more on enjoying that more, whereas the other way, you can concentrate more on the game."
Peter Barton doesn't share the sentiment. He said he goes to Opening Day every year.
"Opening Day Parade is like an institution. It's a national holiday in Cincinnati," Barton said. "Why would you move? That's my opinion."