Politicians and parades go hand in hand come election year, as aspiring candidates try to reach large numbers of voters while those same voters seek to avoid getting too bored by ever larger political floats between the fire trucks, beauty queens and candy tossing.
In Washington County, a handful of communities are coming down on the side of the people. Afton, Oakdale and Forest Lake are among those to put limits on the number of marchers who can accompany political floats, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reported Monday.
In Afton, this year's Fourth of July parade will feature a new restriction: Any candidate participating must observe a City Council-mandated limit of 10 marchers.
In the 2010 parade, "There were too many political units, and it was boring," said Kim Swanson Linner, the deputy city clerk. "They're just walking, and it stretches out the parade line.
"It wasn't entertaining for the crowd," she added.
Karen Housley, a local state Senate candidate, confessed she might get the blame for Afton's new curbs.
"We had 85 people, at least," in the 2010 parade, Housley said. "We were big and loud. We had a DJ spinning hockey songs from a flatbed trailer, and the kids were on the trailer, and they're dancing to the music with their hockey sticks. And kids were Rollerblading alongside, handing out candy and stickers."
Krista Goodyear, a planner of Forest Lake's popular Independence Day parade, said such massive displays tend to slow down the whole parade with a political message of only marginal interest to many parade-goers. Forest Lake now enforces a limit of 20 marchers per politician. "We have to keep the parade going," Goodyear said. "It's boring, otherwise."
At Oakdale's Summerfest Grand Parade last week, organizers enforced a limit of 15 people per candidate. With six Democratic candidates, four Republicans and a county commissioner candidate as well, coordinator Debbie Ramsey said it was a necessary restriction.
She said Oakdale didn't set a penalty for violations, hoping politicians would respect the limit. Most said they are happy to oblige.
"It's just a matter of following the rules," said Don Dickerson, volunteer coordinator for 4th Congressional District candidate Tony Hernandez. "We're blessed to be invited and join the celebration of the community."
Information from: St. Paul Pioneer Press