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Paynesville Press - June 4, 2003

Officials fear for safety of children during parade

By Bonnie Jo Hanson

Paynesville's annual Town and Country Days parade will go on this year, in spite of safety concerns from city officials about throwing candy from parade floats.

In a written statement, police chief Tony Schmitt, who retired at the end of May, informed the city council last week that he sees candy throwing from parade units as a problem and a safety issue. He told the council that he didn't believe the Paynesville Chamber of Commerce was addressing the issue properly. He stated that if the practice was allowed to continue, the police department would be hard pressed to issue a permit for the parade in 2004.

Schmitt told the council the same thing last year when a parade permit was issued to the Chamber of Commerce. Schmitt is worried that small children chasing candy could end up under the wheels of a parade float. For years, a clause in the parade permit has prohibited candy from being thrown from vehicles.

kids picking up candy Mark Leverington, who coordinates the parade for the Chamber of Commerce, told the council that while a couple of floats still threw candy last year, most of the parade participants obeyed the rules. Chamber of Commerce members do their best to educate participants about the rules, but they are unable to police the entire two-mile parade route to ensure nobody throws candy, he told the council. He thought enforcement should be up to the police.

Chamber of Commerce president Jeff Bertram pointed out that last year police became confrontational while enforcing the law, which he thought defeated the purpose of holding the parade. One objective of the Chamber of Commerce is to promote Paynesville as friendly, he said.

He would rather discontinue the parade than allow visitors to view the city as unfriendly. Discontinuing the parade could cause hard feelings throughout the community, Bertram added, because the parade has been a Paynesville tradition for 54 years.

City officials want to keep kids safely near the curb by discouraging candy throwing during the Town and Country Days parade.

The role of the Chamber of Commerce should be to educate participants, agreed council member Dennis Zimmerman, and the police should be tasked with enforcement.

As a result of the discussion, the council passed a resolution changing the wording on the parade permit from "throwing candy is prohibited" to "candy is welcome and appreciated. For the safety of small children, we ask that you pass out candy away from vehicles."

The same wording should appear on parade unit applications.

According to Zimmerman, the new wording should educate participants of the safety issue while maintaining the friendly spirit of the parade and offering an alternative to throwing candy.

The parade will be held this year on Wednesday, June 18, beginning at 7 p.m. It will follow the same route as previous years, starting at the Industrial Park, going south along Washburne Avenue, turning west on Mill Street to pass the Paynesville Area Elementary School, turning south on Maple Street, and ending at St. Louis Catholic Church.

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