There are fewer glorious sights to a child than seeing a handful of candy or shiny beads flying through the air from atop a wildly decorated float from costumed, smiling and waving float riders in a parade.
Palmetto is looking to put an end to the age-old practice, citing safety concerns.
“The major concern is the safety of our community and other communities have had some issues, particularly with children being struck by the vehicles while they are trying to get the beads and candy, so we are taking a look at what other jurisdictions are doing,” City Attorney Mark Barnebey said.
Two other cities were cited in Barnebey’s Monday workshop presentation, including Dade City and Plant City, where a death of a child occurred years ago. However, Plant City has since reinstated the practice.
Barnebey said candy and beads will still be part of the city’s parades, but he is recommending volunteers walk the sidelines of the parade route to place the candy and beads directly into the child’s hands.
The proposal didn’t sit well with Commissioner Harold Smith.
“If you start doing what we are doing now, you will kill the parades. The parades are for the children. Technically, I don’t think they are for us. I think you will lose a lot of people and they will be half the size. Technically, they won’t even be a parade. That’s the whole parade, throwing out the candy to the children.”
Barnebey said there are other cities that have taken this step or have fenced off the parade route.
“It’s primarily to stop children and some adults that come in and get right next to a vehicle and if they stumble, something bad is going to happen. People get impatient and don’t want to wait for something to get thrown and they squeeze into the parade route,” Barnebey said.
Palmetto police Capt. Mike Stinson said he’s seen too many close calls.
“The problem is when they are throwing stuff out, the children run out from the side of the street to get what’s on the ground,” Stinson said. “I’ve seen a couple of near misses. They get so anxious to get that candy and sometimes the driver of the float does not see the child reaching under the trailer getting that candy or beads.
“If someone was walking and just handing it to them, it would be better for the kids.”
Smith said larger cities where they don’t throw candy and beads tend to have larger floats that are the attraction.
“We don’t,” he said. “I’m thinking we aren’t going to have any parades at all. Remember we are a small city. Some are paying to be in the parade just to throw the candy to children. Our parades go slow and we can make sure they go slower. We don’t need to kill the parades and I think that’s what we are doing.”
Smith asked who came up with the idea and Barnebey would only say it was raised during a department head meeting, but no one stepped forward to claim the idea. Smith asked about penalties for those violating the proposed ordinance.
Barnebey said those details would have to be worked out, but more than likely the person could be cited for violating a city ordinance, “and potentially fined,” he said.
Officials asked for more information to be brought back to a future workshop, with Commissioner Brian Williams noting that, “If we are going to control the parades, we should do it right.”