The Middletown parade committee approved guidelines to submit to the Mayor and Town Council for approval.
Middletown’s parade committee approved a draft of guidelines Nov. 13 which would ban discriminatory, offensive or unsafe floats from all future parades.
Twelve rules are part of the guidelines with more half created because of the issues from the 2019 Hummers Parade. The town already has a parade permit, but the goal is to amend it with rules to prevent those problems from reoccurring.
Milton Delgado, a committee member, said at the first meeting Oct. 30 he knows some people are looking to be offended, but residents of Middletown still need to be respected.
“The history of the parade was about cheering up someone who was ill. We can cheer up people without being offensive,” Delgado said. “We know what’s offensive. Unfortunately, it’s a necessary evil that it has to be put in writing to stop a small group of people.”
The parade traditionally held on New Year’s Day pokes fun at politicians, celebrities and current events as a spoof of the Mummers Parade in Philadelphia. Last year, it garnered national attention when some entries were controversial, including one portraying children in cages at border detention.
As a result, the seven-member committee was formed in October to recommend a set of rules for all future parades. The guidelines are only recommendations, so they will be submitted to the Middletown Mayor and Town Council to approve or deny at the Dec. 2 meeting.
One of the rules would prohibit anything that discriminates, is offensive to or disparage any person or group on the basis of race, gender, national origin, disability, political viewpoint, age, religion, sexual orientation or personal characteristics.
Nicole Homer, a committee member, said all communities felt some sort of a bias from the 2019 parade and Middletown is moving in the right direction.
“The situation that happened last year is happening in towns and cities all over the country because we are growing,” she said. “We all have to live with and respect each other.”
Residents and committee members expressed concerns about infringing on the First Amendment guarantee of free speech. Morris Deputy, town manager and committee facilitator, said at the Oct. 30 meeting the group is not able to address or debate constitutional issues, and the town council lacks legal authority to regulate speech.
Once approved, the guidelines will be submitted to the town attorney for legal review.
If approved as drafted, symbols like the Confederate flag, swastika and blackface will be prohibited.
A list of participants and a description of each float was a suggested requirement along with the parade permit between four and eight weeks prior to the requested date. A town official would review all submissions.
Some of the rules and wording were taken from other regional and national parades.
Many of the committee members said they were concerned about having enough time to create the guidelines properly before the Hummers Parade.
Sgt. Scott Saunders suggested it should be postponed or cancelled.
“It’s more responsible to the citizens if it’s done the right way,” he said at last month’s meeting. “Sixty days does not seem like enough time.”
Bob Bolton and Delgado agreed.
Charles Warwick said he disagreed and the parade should continue.
“Not everybody was offended by the parade,” he said. “We shouldn’t stop the parade because of an unfortunate incident.”
Deputy said the town council will likely discuss the possibility at their meeting next month.
The resident who has been the organizer for the Hummers Parade has not come forward or attended the committee meeting to express his opinion, he said.
For the full list of guidelines, visit www.middletown.dealware.gov or call 302-378-2711