Complaints put future of Hummers Parade in doubt

MIDDLETOWN — Is the annual Hummers Parade nearing extinction after decades of irreverence?
Will it continue, albeit with previously unthinkable oversight?
Perhaps it’s time for a new name and markedly different tone?
How about canceling for a year to discuss further?

This much is certain — Middletown’s Mayor and Town Council have big decisions to make before Jan. 1.
Eleven months after a public firestorm ignited following some highly reviled content, the town is grappling with the future of the event fueled by anti-political correctness and little or no planning.

On New Year’s Day for many years now, hundreds have traditionally waited along South Broad and West Main streets as paraders haphazardly assemble around noon, then begin their route at 1 p.m.-ish, rain or shine.

Wearing a black top-hat, bow tie and grasping a scepter, self-proclaimed “grand marshal for life” Jack Schreppler roller-skates at the front of the parade as zany entrants follow.
That’s all in doubt now.

Many thought at least one entry in 2019, if not more, violated public decency well beyond acceptable limits during the get together:
• A spoof of a caged migrant child and adult in soiled underwear, supposedly held at a detention center near the U.S.-Mexico border.
Also on the trailer was a “We’ll Build This Wall” poster and a “Fiesta” sign illustrated with sombreros,

Video circulated online, sparking a controversy that quickly brought a town hall meeting featuring passionate protests among a packed crowd of more than 200.
Town officials found content equally repulsive and vowed to make changes moving forward.

The outrage brought about a parade committee of residents appointed by council. After meeting publicly the past two months, the group submitted draft recommendations to council following a Nov. 13 meeting.
The issue is listed on the regularly scheduled meeting agenda to be held at 7:30 p.m. Monday inside town hall chambers at 19 W. Green Street.
The item is described as “Motion to approve parade guidelines recommended by the Parade Committee.”

Mayor Kenneth L. Branner and Vice Mayor James Reynolds are joined by council members Drew Chas, Robert McGhee, Robert Stout, James D. Royston and Aaron T. Blythe. They selected the parade committee members.
Town officials were unavailable for comment until the matter is discussed in public, spokeswoman Kristen Krenzer said.

The meeting minutes are posted online at middletownde.org on the town’s homepage.
As the story goes, the event began as an impromptu parade on new year’s day – friends gathered for an informal procession to lift the spirits of an ailing neighbor in a small town imitation of the Philadelphia Mummers parade.

On its official site, the town describes the gathering this way:
“The Hummers Parade, a Middletown tradition on New Year’s Day for more than 30 years, is not sponsored by the Town, or any Middletown organization, and is haphazardly thrown together on the day of the event by local residents.

“Anyone may join in the fun on Jan. 1 around noon, and line up in the vicinity of 100 S. Cass Street.
The idea of the parade is to spoof events that happened in the previous year …”
Meeting minutes review
Town manager Morris Deputy called last month’s meeting together, joined S.R. Smith, Kate Rokosz, Milton Delgado, Bob Bolton, Charles Warrick, Nicole Homer and Scott Saunders.

Members received draft guidelines that Mr. Deputy said were compiled based on discussion during an Oct. 30 meeting. He noted that “Some members made it clear that (the parade) should be renamed or postponed,” according to the meeting minutes.

During an October meeting, members discussed potential future plans while members of the community commented as well.
At the end of the session, Mr. Bolton and Mr. Delgado recommended canceling this year’s parade. Mr. Delgado didn’t believe there wasn’t enough time to properly plan it and Mr. Bolton mentioned the family friendly option.

While 60 days was not enough time to organize with new guidelines that might be in place, Mr. Saunders maintained that there was time to announce a cancellation this year.
Mr. Warrick was against calling off the parade in fairness to those planning to participate.

The Hummer’s might not have a future due a changing climate over the past 40 years, Ms. Rokosz said, but a New Year’s Day Parade could be the proper avenue to take.
Mr. Smith hoped the parade would continue “with everybody having a good time,” according to the minutes.

In November, Ms. Homer suggested an item should be revised to read “Entries shall not include images or content that contains nudity, profanity, lewdness, illegal drugs, violence, obscenity, or hate, that are vulgar … “
An application to enter the parade must be made no later than four weeks before the date, but no more than eight weeks before, Mr. Deputy said, explaining, “it’s a combination of having enough time to review the permit but not be so far out that it might conflict with other circumstances, i.e., DelDOT approval, road construction, etc.”

According to Mr. Deputy the sentence “Failure to comply may result in being asked to leave the parade immediately with no warning and may jeopardize a group’s approval to participate in subsequent years’: was added to the proposed parade permit.

Last year’s spoofs
According to previous reporting in the Delaware State News, other far less scrutinized Hummers Parade presentations in 2019 included, among others, recognition of:
• Late actor Burt Reynolds by multiple groups, complete with “Smokey and the Bandit” movie theme music heard from stereo speakers and banjo playing musicians recreating the Alabama country folks in “Deliverance”.

• Homages to the Eagles long-awaited Super Bowl title with a shirtless, scantily clad fan wearing a dog mask, a trophy holding masked man atop a truck, uniformed kids tossing a football, “Fly Eagles Fly” and “Fall Patriots Fall” signs.
• Marijuana legalization, less dangerous than President Donald Trump, according to marching supporters.

• A tax preparation service and separate Trump mask-wearing participants scattered intermittently.
• Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s supposed youthful affinity for beer, “witness stand” and “keg stand” posters included.

• Robert Mueller’s special counsel and available cheap transport to jail via a limousine company.
• The “coach of the year” who reportedly guided his 12-member Thai youth soccer team into a cave for an anticipated bonding experience, resulting in their entrapment and 18-day stay far underground with scarce food or water until rescue.

Reach staff writer Craig Anderson at canderson@newszap.com

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