By Mark Ambrogi
CarmelFest officials’ decision not to distribute candy during the annual parade has been met with negative feedback on social media and even a petition campaign.
However, CarmelFest chairman Gary Sexton said he is convinced it is the right decision for children’s safety.
The decision to change the tradition was not made lightly, and officials examined other parades, Sexton said. The idea has been discussed for several years. This year the 16-person parade committee decided it could no longer table the decision, and those in attendance voted unanimously to no longer hand out candy at the July 4 event.
A few years ago, officials banned the practice of throwing candy from parade vehicles.
“We knew we couldn’t throw out candy for fear of people being hit in the head,” CarmelFest public relations director Cindy Roberts-Greiner said.
In recent years, floats and other parade participants have had roller blade riders or walkers pass out candy, but often the candy would drop in the street and children would run for it.
“There have been multiple incidents of small 3-year-old children running into the street to pick up a single piece of candy directly in front of a moving float or parade vehicle,” CarmelFest Parade Marshal Kurt Rupenthal said. “Fortunately, they have all been rescued by a bystander, parent or a Carmel police officer.”
Sexton said there are quick-moving vehicles, such as motorcycles, in the parade.
“We want to make sure we are doing the absolute right thing for public safety,” Sexton said. “Float drivers have a challenging time enough watching the parade ahead of them. With public safety and insurance requirements with a festival of our size, we just have to make the change.”
Fishers Freedom Festival parade, set for June 26, has a policy of no tossing or handing out candy from parade vehicles or parade participants for the same safety concerns. The festival does have numerous volunteers handing out candy.
“We’ve considered several different options,” Sexton said. “The need for several hundred volunteers to run the festival already is quite a task to coordinate. It would be challenge to add more tasks at this point and date.”
The parade will start at 10:30 a.m. on the corner of AAA Way and Carmel Drive.