Crackdown on bead-throwing at Chasco Fiesta irks paradegoers

NEW PORT RICHEY — When the City Council meets most Tuesday nights, the audience is made up of only a handful of regulars.

But this past Tuesday, a single issue brought nearly 100 people to City Hall: The police crackdown on bead-throwing at last month's Chasco Fiesta street parade.

Five parade floats were ejected for throwing beads at the crowd, and krewes and other parade participants later complained that enforcement had been confusing and heavy-handed. Police and some city officials defended the enforcement as a way to improve parade safety.

After more than two hours of discussion Tuesday night, council members agreed to consider killing the ban on throwing beads, and instead authorize police to focus on reckless acts that could hurt someone, such as deliberately pelting the crowds.

"There are ways, certainly, that beads can be thrown safely," said Mayor Scott McPherson, who said he'd never had problems with bead-throwing from the floats.

Tuesday night's meeting was only a work session, so the council would have to vote on the changes at an upcoming regular meeting.

The ban on throwing items from floats has appeared on special event permits — and Chasco parade applications — for years. But it went unenforced at Chasco until this year.

Last August, council members had discussed ideas for making city parades safer, especially in light of the death of a boy at the Plant City Christmas Parade. Council members never took a vote on the issue, but police Chief Martin Rickus and City Manager Tom O'Neill said they believed the consensus of the council was to enforce the ban.

Police officers first enforced the ban at last year's Christmas parade. One float got booted for throwing items, officials said: the one belonging to Pasco County Mosquito Control.

Council member Rob Marlowe said Tuesday night's proposal represented a good compromise.

"The key is," he said, "it's just got to be safe."

Jodie Tillman can be reached at jtillman@sptimes.com or (727) 869-6247.

Crackdown on bead-throwing at Chasco Fiesta irks paradegoers 04/08/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, April 8, 2009 7:13pm]

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