Spectators say parade not rated PG

Published 10:47 am Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Editor’s Note: This article has been edited from the original to clarify Heidi Sadler’s statement. She was referring to the 2013 Christmas Parade.

Friday was the first time Brandy Holloman Barnes took her family to the Franklin Christmas Parade. She also thinks it will be the last time.

Barnes said she had heard that after last year’s parade, some of her friends wouldn’t be going back. But the parade is at night, and she thought the lights would make it a beautiful Christmas sight for her children. Instead, she ended up having to cover up their ears and eyes for parts of the parade.

“There was one car with lights on and the radio going that just had people walking behind it,” Barnes said. “It was not family entertainment. The way that they were dancing and the lyrics in the songs were not Christmas-themed or appropriate. You shouldn’t be playing music that has cussing in it for a Christmas parade.”

The Sussex Marching Tigers also were inappropriate in their dancing, she said. For each group, Barnes said she didn’t blame the children who were dancing. In the case of the Sussex band, the adults were right there allowing it. And for the Dancing Divas, she said the adults in the group were dancing just as inappropriately.

“You can’t blame the individual children, you have to blame the teachers and the schools allowing them to do so,” she said. “The adults are the ones teaching them to do these things, or allowing it in public.”

Barnes noted that the vast majority of the floats in the parade were good, but the few bad ones spoiled the bunch.

“There were a few that were really nice and family-oriented,” she said. “Some of the businesses and church groups did a good job with their presentation and theme. But, those few bad ones made it where we really could not enjoy it overall.”

Downtown Franklin Association Executive Director Dan Howe said he’d also heard a few complaints. Howe said the Divas are a group that are trying to get children involved in something more positive in their after-school activities.

“In our area here, that type of music is probably more the norm than Christmas music,” he said. “Still, it would have been nice if they had come up with a dance routine that was based on Christmas. You could certainly come up with a dance to ‘Jingle Bells.’”

As far as the bands, mostly what he heard was that few of them played Christmas music. He said these were young children in high school, and some of them are still learning to march and play at the same time, so their song selection was likely limited.

“I think the bands started playing Christmas music, but by the time they got to Fred’s, they were just beating the drums,” he said. “A lot of the time, they march onto the field and stand still to play.”

He’d also had people call asking about judging, but he said this year, for the second time in a row, there were no judges. Howe said with as many participants as they have, it would slow the parade to a crawl to have each stop in front of the judges to be scored.

Moving forward, he said they might rethink judging, but that would be something they would have to plan ahead for at a later date.

“We are trying to not have the elderly and young people out there exposed to the weather any longer than necessary,” he said.

In the future, Barnes hopes guidelines are put in place and they have someone checking the content before they are allowed to march.

“Parents don’t like surprises,” she said. “We should not have to cover our child’s eyes in a Christmas parade.”

Heidi Sadler said she was embarrassed for her hometown of Franklin. She said on Facebook that during the 2013 Christmas parade, some band members from an unnamed band were basically treating maces like a stripper pole, while adults in charge were watching. She said it was sad that they felt like there needed to be guidelines, but that the parade definitely needs them.

Howe said he was open to doing it different next year.

“We are open to suggestions,” Howe said. “We can always have new ideas for how we can improve it.”

He said they implemented some new things on the front end that helped speed up check in, and they were hoping to streamline that process further going forward. As far as making sure the parade was more Christmas-oriented, he said they would work to get the word out earlier, so that people would have more time to plan their floats.

Howe said they’d like to keep it on the first Friday of December, so once people get that deadline in their head, he thinks it will go smoother. The parade committee also wanted to see it continue to be at night.

“We set a new precedent in 2010, the first year we had a night parade for the 50th anniversary,” Howe said. “Everybody overwhelmingly enjoyed it more — the floats look better at night — and we’d like to continue that going forward.”