Children on the hunt for candy at the Elks Flag Day Parade Saturday afternoon can leave their catcher's mitts at home.
On the advice of city police, the Elks have asked groups participating in the annual procession to refrain from tossing candy out into the crowds along Broadway. Instead, they are asking marchers to simply have someone handing out candy to reduce the chance of a child running into the street and potentially getting struck by a vehicle in the parade.
“We almost had one kid get clipped last year, so that’s what brought up the discussion,” said city police Lt. Robert Jillson. “It does create an unsafe environment.”
Jillson said police won’t be watching for people throwing candy and have no intention of pushing for a ban. Rather, they’re asking groups to use a degree of caution and common sense this year.
In February, the Elks released their parade registration form with a disclaimer from the police instructing that no candy be thrown. Jillson said sometimes the candy being tossed from floats doesn’t make it into the crowd and lands in the street, where it’s an attractive grab for young children.
The parade is among the largest in the city and sometimes attracts upward of 15,000 people scattered along its route from North Broadway to downtown. Jillson said there’s a growing concern that a young child could slip away in the excitement and end up in the path of the parade.
“All we’re saying is instead of throwing candy . . . walk along curbside and hand it out, or throw it from a foot away.”
Sue Waghorn, a member of the Elks Lodge Flag Day Parade Committee, said groups participating in the parade have been willing to oblige. She said most have agreed to simply hand out the candy — something that’s become somewhat of a tradition during the parade.
“We’ve told [police] we didn’t think that would be a problem,” she said. “If they walk down the street, they can hand candy out.”
Parades both large and small around the country have discouraged or outright banned the practice of tossing candy into parade crowds. Some communities have even codified this prohibition and then issued citations to violators.
The Texas city of Willis banned the practice of candy tossing in 2011. In November, two school board members made news when they were issued tickets for throwing candy during a homecoming parade — each carrying a fine of $209.
Though parade injuries are rare across the country, some do occur as a result of candy being handed out. Ironically, many of the instances that have made headlines are ones involving children handing out candy, not ones scrambling for it in the street.
In May, a 9-year-old boy sustained minor injuries during the Broiler Days parade in Arcadia, Wisconsin, after he slipped under the wheel of a tandem axle trailer. Wisconsin State Police determined the boy was in the process of getting off the trailer to hand out more candy when he fell.
A similar incident happened in Crystal Lake, Illinois, during the city’s annual Festival of Lights parade, when an 8-year-old boy suffered a broken leg after becoming caught in the wheel of a float. The boy was apparently following an adult getting off the float to hand out candy under the recommendations of authorities to avoid spectators getting trampled.
Experts urge communities and parents to exhibit a degree of caution, rather than going forward with bans or other measures based on the notion that tossing candy will cause injuries.