Some not too sweet on new CarmelFest candy policy

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Peggy Powell didn’t expect this kind of reaction from the public. It’s just candy.

Yet, everyone seems to be talking about candy in Carmel, or more specifically, the fact that the parade committee of CarmelFest decided to not allow throwing candy in this year’s parade out of fear that a child could get hit by a car running to pick it up the treats.

And some people are quite angry.

“Some people have told me things like, ‘You have ruined the parade for us forever,’” said Powell, parade director for CarmelFest, the city’s annual Fourth of July celebration. “We’re just trying to protect your children, folks. But really nobody has been too nasty. Some people who have been in the parade before have thanked us because they know there have been close calls. We are trying to be proactive so nothing tragic happens.”

Years ago, they changed the policy so candy would just be handed out instead of thrown but people still threw candy and kids still ran into the streets. She said many drivers were scared.

“People say the cars aren’t going very fast so nobody gets hurt but it can still happen,” she said.

To be honest, I don’t care that much if they throw candy or not. If I want candy, I can buy it and I don’t have kids. I don’t really have a dog in this hunt but if I had to take a side I’d say that maybe some other compromise should have been reached other than outright banning candy. Not because I think candy is essential for freedom or anything, but because I don’t think the negative publicity over this is worth it. I think this ongoing angry feedback from residents outweighs the risk. We shouldn’t be talking about a candy controversy and it’s an unnecessary distraction from promoting what will be an awesome parade.

But is it just candy? Or does it mean more to people?

For some reason, this topic resonated with lots of people. They were frustrated. Some people told me they don’t have kids and they don’t eat candy, but they are still upset. And I want to look at why these people care. I want to help explain why so many people are disappointed that candy won’t be thrown anymore.

‘IT’S TRADITION’

I think people are frustrated by change. We grow up with traditions and we don’t want to see it go away unless there’s a really good reason. Since nobody has been hurt, we don’t see the need to break tradition.

“I participated in this parade 10 times and never saw an incident,” said Rick Sharp, former member of the Carmel City Council. “It seems a shame to marginalize this bit of Americana here in Carmel.”

On Facebook, one person commented: “I’ve lived in Carmel my entire life. 43 years now, and this is embarrassing. My kids like to go to the parade for the candy and to see all of their friends and classmates throw the candy to them!! It’s tradition. So some committee of old people just want us to come watch rich people drive their Corvettes in the ‘parade,’ no thanks. I’m not going and will do my best to make sure nobody I know goes either.”

‘SOLVING A PROBLEM THAT DOESN’T EXIST’

Some people have commented that it represents how government and our society is “overprotective” and worrying about things that might not ever happen.

One Facebook user commented: “Maybe they should cancel the parade and everybody hunker down and stay barricaded in their homes since ‘something might happen.’”

Others tied this to the idea of big government making more rules. (To to clear, it’s not “big government” since the City of Carmel didn’t make the decision, but that’s the mindset of some people.)

“Thank God big government protects us from ourselves,” one man wrote on Facebook. “I propose that starting next year the parade and fireworks be televised and everyone ordered to remain in their homes from the 2nd to the 10th of July.”

The mindset is that they don’t want to see new rules that are about worrying about everything. They don’t want to be told they can’t get a large soda because it’s unhealthy. Some people don’t even think the government should be able to tell people to wear seat belts in cars. That “quit trying to protect me” mindset carries over for some people to any deciding body, not just government.

Former City Councilor Eric Seidensticker said, “life is a liability” and that people need to be responsible for themselves.

“It’s ridiculous the direction that we’re going,” he said. “We want to protect ourselves from every possible outcome and there’s no problem. They are fixing a problem that doesn’t exist.”

PARENTAL RESPONSIBILITY

In the end, I think a lot of the anger isn’t necessarily at the parade organizers for making this rule. They are angry at “parents who don’t watch their kids” that have forced this change to be made. A few people ruin the fun for everyone else.

Recently in the news, we’ve seen a lot of viral Internet stories where the debate has been centered around parental responsibility. We saw in Cincinnati a young boy get into a gorilla enclosure at the zoo, forcing the staff to shoot and kill the gorilla out of safety for the child. On the Internet and TV, people claimed that the parents should have been watching the kid and as a result an innocent animal is dead. Some people even had some cruel and heartless things to say about the parents. In Florida, we read news reports about a young boy dying because he was grabbed by an alligator when he went wading out into a shallow portion of a lagoon. Some people blamed the parents because there was a sign that stated ‘no swimming,’ although many others blamed Disney because they failed to let people know that there were alligators in the water. Yet the debate recently was centered around this idea: when are the parents to blame and when is someone else at fault?

Tony Katz, a local talk radio show host on WIBC, said people need to watch their kids.

“The worst part of this is that I don’t blame, totally, CarmelFest,” he told Current in Carmel. “It’s parents who are quick to blame everyone and anyone except their own child, or themselves. If your kid runs into the parade to get candy, and gets hurt, the blame should be on you and your child. Lots of kids know better. They should still get candy, if a float wants to toss it to them.”

COMPARING TO OTHERS

Another logical reason why people are angry — beyond the symbolic stuff I mentioned early — is that people see other communities continue to throw candy without any problems.

“We can throw beads in New Orleans at the drunkest people in the world, but a Twix bar tossed to a six year old is out of bounds?” Katz said to Current in Carmel.

One of the obvious examples is the Fishers Freedom Festival just down the road. Noblesville gives out candy too. Although both parades ask that they be handed out instead of thrown. In Carmel, they tried that too but people kept throwing candy.

Jeff Worrell, current member of the Carmel City Council and former longtime chairman of CarmelFest, told Current that he thinks other solutions could have been come to instead of just banning candy. He doesn’t want to criticize those in charge now, but people have been come up to him to ask him about the new candy policy.

Powell said she’s received some feedback on changes that could be made to allow candy to still be distributed but it is nothing that can be implemented in time for 2016. She said some of these ideas for next year aren’t out of the question.

PUTTING IT IN PERSPECTIVE

To be fair, not everyone is up in arms about this decision. But those that agree with it or simply don’t care one way or another aren’t as vocal as those with negative reactions.

Some thank the parade organizers for prioritizing the safety of children.

“Thank you for that decision,” one person commented on Facebook. “Parents do not watch their kids close enough and kids end up all the way out in the middle of the street begging for candy. Blocks all the view of everyone trying to watch, and is clearly a safety issue!”

Many people don’t seem to understand why candy is such a big deal.

“If your kids need sweets that bad, go to CarmelFest and purchase something from a vendor and support someone’s small business after the parade,” wrote one person on Facebook. “I’ve gone since I was young and, yes, candy is part of the tradition. However, the parade isn’t to celebrate the anniversary of Candy Land, but instead to celebrate our independence.”

Powell wants to emphasize that the parade is more than just candy. There are floats and live music and mascots and people in costumes and even a 30-foot Kermit the Frog balloon. Some people who attended might not have even noticed the candy before.

““Carmel has one of the best and patriotic parades ever,” one Facebook user commented. “Not having candy shouldn’t be a deterrent from attending. The veterans participating and watching were denied much more than candy.”

And that’s where I hope most people will agree.

There’s more to the parade than just candy. You can think it was a dumb decision, but you’re really just punishing yourself by not attending. Go to the parade! Have fun! And don’t worry so much about candy. There are more important thing in life.

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