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Politics, and poor judgment, on parade

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By Doug Bell

I’ve walked in the Evergreen Rodeo Parade on many occasions, and it’s always a highlight of my summer. My job often involves attempting to keep sweet rewards out of the hands of politicians — so a morning spent depositing candy into the hands of cute kids provides a welcome break.

This year, however, I was in Glenwood Springs on parade day for the wedding of a former Courier news editor. And little did I know that there was an uncomfortable marriage of politics and parades back on Main Street in Evergreen.
The reception that greeted me on my return to the office was nothing like the one I had just enjoyed at the Hotel Colorado. Angry e-mails, Facebook posts and a letter to the editor decried the treatment of the Obama float by the parade announcer and by the truck that followed it.
Here is what apparently happened, pieced together from numerous conflicting accounts rivaling rattled witnesses at a crime scene: The Shirley Septic truck immediately behind the Obama float displayed a sign that said, “This truck is hauling the Obama stimulus package.” The parade announcer joined the fun by suggesting that the placement of a sewage truck behind the Obama float was amusing and appropriate.  
But several parade watchers didn’t see the humor, and didn’t find the parade’s political overtones the least bit appropriate. I’m finding it difficult to disagree with them.
JoAnne McGee with the Rodeo Parade said there is no policy on signs, and that the script read by the announcer — the material is provided by individual entries — is not reviewed or edited by parade organizers. Also, she pointed out that the parade is a public forum where everyone is entitled to express their opinions.
True enough. But the problem comes when one political float is subject to public ridicule, and the others are not. And the problem is compounded when some audience members feel that the president has been disrespected at a very public and patriotic event. And the plot gets even thicker when the Shirley Septic truck and its political message enters late and ends up behind the Obama float — with Ed Shirley serving on the Evergreen Rodeo board.
But let’s leave matters of taste and conspiracy theories to higher minds. And let’s agree that the next four months will bludgeon every one of us with enough negative political messages to make a pessimist of the Dalai Lama.
And for crying out loud, just let me have some non-political fun at next year’s Rodeo Parade. I don’t get that many days off.

Doug Bell is the editor of the Courier.