DADE CITY — Organizers took extra precautions when preparing for Friday's Magical Night Christmas Parade.
They didn't want a repeat of the tragic accident that claimed the life of 9-year-old Jordan Hays, who was run over and killed by a Christmas parade float in Plant City last year.
"We're being as a careful as possible," said Nita Beckwith, executive director of the Greater Dade City Chamber of Commerce, which sponsors the parade.
The Plant City accident occurred when Hays, who was running between a float and the crowd distributing candy, caught his foot in a wheel well, officials said.
To prevent the same from happening in Dade City this year, parade participants are required to cover the wheels of their floats with either plywood or metal.
"We asked attendees to make sure the wheel area of their trailers and floats are protected," said Joey Wubbena, the chamber's parade committee chairman. "I do not want any exposed tires."
Friday night, about 90 floats will snake down Seventh Street from Martin Luther King Boulevard to Church Avenue.
Barricades will be placed at "hot spots" along the route to keep attendees away from the road.
Dade City police and Pasco County sheriff's deputies will also patrol the crowd, which is expected to range from 7,000 to 9,000 people.
"Anytime you get a crowd of that size, there's always the potential for criminal activity. The main thing is to keep it safe and let everyone have a fun time," said Dade City police chief Ray Velboom.
This week, there was a debate whether float riders could give candy to the crowd.
Instead of banning sweets, organizers asked participants not to throw candy from the floats. Instead, walkers alongside the trailers will hand out treats.
This is a safety precaution to keep people from scrambling into the street after sweets, and to prevent candy-related injuries.
"If you've ever been hit by a piece of candy, it hurts," Wubbena said.
The parade is slated to start at 7 p.m. and last about an hour. But if participants are ready, it may kick off earlier.
Organizers have received requests to move up the starting time so attendees can also watch the Pasco High School football team play in the class 3A region final against North Marion High.
The game starts at 7:30 p.m. at Pasco High.
Helen Anne Travis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 435-7312.