ELIZABETHTOWN — Changes are marching into Elizabethtown, after the Town Council on Monday night approved amendments to the code of ordinances governing parades.
The changes, approved unanimously by the board, are coming about in part because of the increasing length of parades.
“We had a lot of traffic issues and received a letter from DOT explaining Poplar Street is food truck access,” Elizabethtown Police Chief Tony Parrish told the board, adding it is up to DOT to grant parade access on state highways.
The board learned that January’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade, traffic on the south side of U.S. 701 was backed up for miles because the parade lasted between two and two-and-a-half hours. According to Parrish, when DOT learned of the issue, they wrote a letter citing the fact that DOT did not receive a permit request for the parade from the organizers.
Parrish also told the board of numerous other problems police have seen in recent parades and recommended the following changes to the code of ordinances:
- Parade organizers must include with their town application copies of the letter sent to DOT requesting the parade route and the response they received from the state.
- Copies of insurance listing the town as insured must be provided.
- Inappropriate music or vulgar language will not be allowed. Earlier this year, a parade DJ reportedly incited the crowd with vulgar language and anti-law-enforcement speech.
- Speeches from DJs, including campaigning, will be prohibited. Sound amplification can only be used for music.
- Dance troupes and other walking units must continue forward movement. Troupes will be allowed to stop at one location for one minute, but must be making forward movement at all other times.
- Parade participants must maintain a maximum of 50 feet between entries.
- All vehicles will be required to display an entry number for identification.
- Group participants will be required to dress in manner that “easily identifies walkers as part of the same group”.
- Objects, such as candy or money, may not be thrown into the crowd.
- Equine entries must have someone clean up after them, if necessary.
Parrish said he had studied numerous other town ordinances regarding parades and found these changes to be compatible with what others are doing.
The board spent considerable time talking about two issues — number of entries and parade route. Staff were initially proposing limiting the parade route to 100 entries, with every 10 vehicles being considered one entry. According to Parrish, the Elizabethtown Christmas parade normally has 75 entries, and the MLK parade has roughly 200. One entry, however, may be a bike club with 200 motorcycles.
Board members, however, spoke against the idea of limiting participation.
“The MLK parade is a big deal for people, and I’d hate to cut down (the celebration),” offered Councilman Ricky Leinwand.
Councilman Howell Clark agreed, saying, “I’d rather control the route than the number of people.”
Council nixed the provision and turned to discussing the route. Clark suggested parades could head east on Broad Street and continue straight through the U.S. 701 intersection, with the parade being stopped intermittently to allow U.S. 701 traffic to go across Broad Street. Alternatively, parades could turn onto MLK Drive instead of Poplar.
“I have no problem with the route they take, as long as they don’t block Poplar,” Parrish said.
In the end, it was decided to allow each parade organizer to lay out his or her own route to be submitted to the town.
Parrish said he would be meeting with the organizers of the three current Elizabethtown parades to inform them of the changes. The organizers will then be responsible for letting parade participants know of the new rules.
“Hopefully we won’t be getting any more letters from DOT,” Parrish said.
Chrysta Carroll can be reached by calling 910-862-4163 or emailing email@example.com.