Updated July 24
Edgartown selectmen voted Monday to adopt a set of rules and guidelines limiting participants, signage, and even candy throwing for the annual Independence Day Parade.
Joe Sollitto, the parade’s director, gave selectmen the set of rules, which included a ban on candy throwing due to safety concerns. Passing out candy is still allowed.
The town’s decision to halt candy throwing has caused a knee-jerk reaction from people on social media.
The Times Facebook page received more than 50 comments ranging from support for Sollitto’s rule changes to outrage over a common parade tradition.
“Every single one of you should go volunteer with the ambulance or go visit a children’s trauma unit; you ever see what happens to a child who goes under the wheel of a vehicle? This year was the worst for kids pushing further and further into the road, making it difficult and extremely dangerous. These aren’t traffic cones, they’re children that you’re pushing into the path of a vehicle for candy, WTH is wrong with you?” commenter Mikey Waters said.
Ronda Poole Guerreiro felt there shouldn’t be any ban. “The throwing candy was the best part of the parade! My kids love trying to catch it.”
Sollitto called The Times to clarify after some interpreted the ban as an outright ban on candy.
“It’s not a ban on candy,” he said, noting children could run out into the road. “It’s changing the method of distribution.”
Despite a 2-0 vote from selectmen approving the rules, Sollitto said the rules were proposed to the town early so there could be discussion and suggestions for next year. “These aren’t the final rules,” Sollitto said.
Sollitto’s rules also limit participation in the parade to nonprofits, camps, teams, musical groups, farm or agriculture, families, veterans or military, and municipal groups. Groups that fall in other categories such as commercial businesses are able to sponsor one of the allowed groups, but are only permitted two signs, no bigger than two square feet, with their business logo.
Sollitto says the town isn’t trying to limit participation, but wants to curb the commercialization of the parade.
The handing out of coupons, pamphlets, or advertising of any sort is also prohibited. Antique vehicles are welcome in the parade if they are 50 years or older. Any group entering the parade will have to preregister with the selectmen’s office.
“Every business seems to want to come and advertise,” Sollitto said. “We probably should try to get away from the commercialization that’s been happening over the past couple of years.”
Selectman Arthur Smadbeck was not present at the meeting, but the board voted 2-0 to adopt the changes.
Sollitto pointed to selectman Michael Donaroma’s business, Donaroma’s Nursery, as an example of what is allowed. Donaroma’s pulled the Vineyard Haven Band float with one of its cars. The only signage for the business was two decals on the side of the car. “Now we have a list of what’s allowed in the parade,” selectman Michael Donaroma said. “A little more guidance.”
In other business, a homeowner’s association in Katama voiced concerns over a planned project at the Katama Landing boat ramp. The project proposes to widen the ramp from 20 feet to 30 feet, and lengthen it from 49 feet to 96 feet, to accommodate launching the town dredge by trailer instead of by crane. The ramp will also still be used for recreational and some commercial boating use.
In an email to the town, Doug Cameron, the assistant director and deputy chief engineer of the Massachusetts Department of Fish and Game, said the use of the ramp is to provide access to coastal waters for the launching and retrieval of boats. Local shellfishermen or charter fishing boats are allowed to use the ramp and park at the landing. Charter boat customers, however, are not allowed to park at the landing.
Members of the Katama Association are concerned that the increased size of the ramp will turn the area into a commercialized site. “You’re turning a residential ramp into a commercial ramp,” Vincent Sabatini, one of the members of the association, said. “This change is unbelievable.”
Selectmen said the project has been in the works for the past few years. Voters recently approved $120,000 at April’s annual town meeting to pay for the town’s 25 percent share of the project. The state will pay for the remaining 75 percent.
“This has been several years of planning; I think we just have to keep going,” selectman Margaret Serpa said.
Updated to add clarification from Sollitto and comments from the public. — Ed.