Bead throwing and parade-going typically go hand in hand, but when police enforced a no-tossing from floats rule at Saturday's Chasco Fiesta, in New Port Richey, it caused a stir among krewes, who now say they're looking to boycott next year's parade.
But while the rule might have seemed clear on paper to officials, many participants didn't know about it until shortly before the parade, which travels around Orange Lake. Others were confronted with mixed signals. Parade officials ejected five floats for violating the rule.
"As we started down the parade route, an officer stated we couldn't throw or toss beads from the float," said Jose Berenguer, president of the Krewe of Mambi.
"Then one of the Chasco parade marshals said to keep doing what we were doing," Berenguer said. He told his krewe to keep throwing beads because he saw other groups around them tossing beads from their floats.
The Krewe of Mambi was kicked out 20 minutes into the parade, Berenguer said. Floats from the Krewe of Shamrock, New Image Dermatology, Show Palace and Southern Towing were also ejected.
Berenguer's krewe is a member of the Inter-Krewe Council, an organization made up of more than 50 krewes. The council plans to ask its members to boycott next year's Chasco Fiesta, he said.
Chasco Fiesta Executive Director Wendy Brenner said not allowing beads to be thrown from the float was a part of the city's efforts to increase safety.
The Chasco Fiesta isn't the first local parade to rein in bead-throwing, which has been under scrutiny since a 9-year-old boy, Jordan Hays, was run over and killed by a float at the 2007 Christmas parade in Plant City.
"This was a direct response to what happened in Plant City ," Brenner said.
"We added some things the police department asked us to put in there, asked us to make changes. We pled our case, so to speak, and the outcome, the chief wanted those rules changed, so that's what's we did," Brenner said.
Other added measures included no one under 16 walking in the parade, and no skirting in the wheels. Floats were required to have safety monitors with cell phones.
"In the parade application, for several years it's said no bead throwing. Usually there's a lot of n the application that's just said," said Kate Daley, president of the Krewe of Santa Margarita.
The application, with the rules added in bold, says the New Port Richey Police Department "forbids" throwing of any item - including beads - from floats or vehicles.
"It was very simple. We requested a meeting with the council to try and get people to not throw the beads - to hand them out along the edges," said Police Chief Martin Rickus.
But it wasn't so clear to those participating. Cindy Dauck, who threw beads to the crowd while walking, said authorities were hostile.
As she handed beads to a crowd from about an arm's length away, she said an officer told her, "Throw another effing bead and you'll go to jail."
Participants from family-friendly crews such as Santa Margarita and Mambi say the rules make it hard for those unable to walk along the route to fully engage in the festivities.
"We have handicapped, disabled and elderly that can't walk the parade route," Berenguer said. "Now they've limited the parade for people who can't walk."
Daley echoed similar concerns on for krewe.
"We're a family krewe. [Our members] like to take their kids to the parade and their kids want to throw beads," Daley said.
Mayor Scott McPherson plans to discuss the rules of next year's parade in an upcoming work session, said City Manager Tom O'Neill. The city and parade organizer have received several complaints.
"The purpose of a krewe is two-fold: to entertain and give back to the community. We go there with the expectation of throwing beads and the crowd's coming with expectations of getting beads," Daley said.
"It's contrary to the whole objective. I think there's other ways to limit liability."