It’s no trick: Anoka’s famed Halloween parades will be free of Tootsie Rolls, Starburst and other sugary treats this year, with event organizers citing safety concerns as the reason behind a new candy ban.
Stormy debate and criticism have swirled on social media over the recently announced rule change. The new ban means no more candy handouts at the Grand Day Parade. It’s a marquee event in a city that Congress has proclaimed the “Halloween Capital of the World,” with Anoka’s spooky celebrations tracing back nearly a century.
Event organizers say worries over children mobbing parade vehicles for sweets, as well as a dip in volunteers able to patrol for this behavior, resulted in the decision to forgo candy giveaways. The annual festival — which includes two other parades where handouts were already prohibited — is put on by Anoka Halloween Inc., a nonprofit made up of volunteers.
“I don’t know what else to do,” said Liz McFarland, the festival’s parade chair. “Something is going to happen with a child because people aren’t watching their children.”
While there have been no injuries reported, previous parades have resulted in “close calls,” McFarland said.
The Halloween hullabaloo over the ban has prompted calls to City Hall and some barbed posts on social media, which range from “Candy IS Halloween!” to “How about parents actually parent their children?”
“It was a very swift uprising of people in response to that announcement,” said Colleen Halligan, secretary of this year’s Anoka Halloween board of directors.
A Facebook post made Friday about the rule change on the Anoka Halloween page had attracted about 250 comments as of Tuesday.
“We had hoped that the floats and bands were why people were coming to our parade,” the post read, “but we are learning that candy is very important.”
Before this latest rule change, parade organizers say they had already barred tossing treats from floats, limiting candy to handouts by groups walking along the route. They had also tried restricting candy to certain sections of the parade and imposing minimum age requirements for those handing it out.
“I’m out of ideas,” McFarland said. “We had to regroup this year.”
Jeremy Anderson, who owns a local construction and retail business, said he has decided not to participate in this year’s parade, despite it being a favorite tradition among his employees’ families.
He said his business, Countryside Services of MN, typically buys a pallet of candy from Costco and spends thousands of dollars on goodies for parade revelers.
“It’s just a bummer,” Anderson said. “It’s like every year they keep taking the fun out of it.”
The outcry has festival organizers pondering ways to safely bring back the treats. They say they’re now working to recruit more volunteers and fielding ideas.
“I hope to bring candy back,” McFarland said. “It’s Halloween. But safety is our No. 1 concern, and I don’t want to be part of an accident.”