CRESTVIEW — The Main Street Crestview Association could tighten Christmas parade application guidelines to filter applicants, a Laurel Hill attorney said Friday.
"It looks to me they could give it some more rules," Laurel Hill City Attorney Daniel Campbell said.
The current application includes questions for routine information and payment options. Applicants agree to guidelines that pertain to participants’ safety and visibility, understanding of the parade route, and rain procedure.
Additionally, event organizers could include a question on the application that asks applicants to describe their parade entry.
"Then a committee could decide whether that activity is appropriate or not," Campbell said.
Current city attorney Jerry Miller and former city attorney Ben Holley wouldn’t comment on the matter, as of press time.
Following the Dec. 1 Christmas parade, many criticized participant Save me from the Fire ministry, which featured a Pensacola student minister who shouted anti-gay remarks, damned parade attendees to hell and denied Santa Claus’ existence from a megaphone.
Many residents also criticized parade planners for approving the ministry’s application. The Crestview organization has issued apologies for those offended.
Main Street organizers made no formal decisions after meeting Dec. 5 to discuss the issue, but members were open to changing next year’s guidelines. Suggestions included designating participants’ positions in the procession; if applicants didn’t accept their given position, they wouldn't be allowed to participate.
One member suggested publicly posting a roster in advance so parade-goers could avoid messages from organizations they might find offensive.
Mike Ryan of Crestview said he likes the idea. However, he said, if Save Me from the Fire participates in 2013, he and his family would not attend.
"There are plenty of other parades to attend in the area," said Ryan, who didn’t attend this year’s parade since his 3-year-old son was sick. He heard about what happened from other residents who expressed their outrage on the News Bulletin’s Facebook page.
Ryan supports people exercising their First Amendment rights, but he said the situation should fit the setting.
On the humorous side, Ryan offered relative’s suggestion for how parade officials could deal with controversial applicants.
"My brother-in-law suggested putting them between two fire engines (which blow their sirens throughout the parade route)," Ryan said.
A major concern for the Main Street association centers on potential legal threats from those who feel their First Amendment rights are violated.
During the meeting, members said they would seek attorneys’ and city officials’ input.
Conner said he and other members have received suggestions from other cities, which have dealt with similar situations.
He and other Main Street members plan to work with city officials to ensure similar incidents never happen at another Christmas parade.
"In the 50 (plus) years that the parade has been going, this is the first bit of controversy that I can remember," Conner said.
In addition to the Christmas parade, the Main Street Crestview Association plans some of Crestview's most widely attended events, including the Fall Festival and First Friday summer events.
Contact News Bulletin Staff Writer Matthew Brown at 850-682-6524 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @cnbMatthew.
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