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Parade barricades a risky issue for all

Beads! Beads! Beads!

The familiar cry heard along the DeSoto Heritage Parade route every April.

Beads are tossed by people on the float toward the crowd, some fall short, and kids scramble into the street to scoop up the artificial booty.

It’s a scene that repeats itself throughout the evening’s pageantry.

That’s despite the efforts of law enforcement, on bikes and on foot, to keep the crowd back. Ditto for walkers flanking their organization’s float rolling down Manatee Avenue.

I’ve seen it happen as a parade participant and parade onlooker for 12 years.

I’m amazed no one’s been seriously injured or worse.

Yet.

Wednesday’s unanimous vote by the Bradenton City Council, allowing parade organizers to go without additional barricades along most of this year’s parade route, raises the alarm once again.

Yes, more barricades are costly. For the city, given its budget constraints. Or for DeSoto, whose parade sponsorships took a hit from the economy.

Yes, they’re a logistical challenge adhering to FDOT requirements on blocking off a state road.

Yes, the time it takes to put up the barricades is another parade hurdle.

But all it takes is one child to get killed while chasing beads.

Lawsuits would strike everywhere.

The float driver and the float organization.

DeSoto, the parade organizers.

The city.

It would be “a legal quagmire,” to paraphrase one Bradenton lawyer.

That the council professed concern over the safety issue, yet spurned the professional recommendation of its own police chief and other law enforcement officials for more barricades is troubling and at odds.

This is not an old issue.

In fact, a DeSoto acquaintance told me months ago he thought they had finally solved the barricade problem.

Council member Gene Gallo has suggested DeSoto officials work on these safety concerns with law enforcement for the 2011 parade.

Why wait until then?

Given the place the parade holds in this community, it would be foolhardy to do so.

Mannix About Manatee, by columnist Vin Mannix, is about people and issues in Manatee County. Please call Vin Mannix at 745-7055, write him at Bradenton Herald, P.O. Box 921, Bradenton, FL 34206 or e-mail him at vmannix@bradenton.com. Please include a phone number for verification purposes.

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