Politically charged floats create dilemma for parade organizers

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 7 June 2013 at 12:00 am

Photo by Tom Rivers – Concerned Citizens of Orleans County have a float urging the county to keep the nursing home.

ALBION – One float sends the message, “Keep the Orleans County Nursing Home Public.” Another display is strongly in support of Second Amendment rights.

The floats were both in the Murray-Holley June Fest parade last Saturday. Concerned Citizens of Orleans County debuted with its float during Memorial Day in Medina.

“We just want to call attention to the issue,” said Gary Kent, a member of Concerned Citizens of Orleans County.

The group is opposed to the county’s push to sell the 120-bed nursing home, The Villages of Orleans. The County Legislature created a local development corporation and transferred the nursing home to that entity, and charged the group with finding a buyer for the nursing home. Legislators fear projected deficits that could hit $2 million to $4 million at The Villages.

NY Revolution, a grass roots group that formed after the state passed the SAFE ACT in January, has a float in support of the right to bear arms.

Both floats will be allowed in Saturday’s Albion Strawberry Festival, despite concerns from some members of the Albion Rotary Club. I’m a member of the Rotary Club. I joined about 18 months ago. Rotarians have been the chief organizers of the Strawberry Festival the past three years.

The Rotary Club strives to be apolitical. The group doesn’t want politically charged messages at its meetings or events.

The nursing home and Second Amendment floats are designed to influence public policy. They’re clearly political.

A committee of Rotarians and other community members voted to allow the two floats.

To say no to the groups wouldn’t sit well.

“It’s a First Amendment issue, and they didn’t have a problem with it in Medina, Holley or Lyndonville,” Kent told me. “If they’re uncomfortable with it, then so be it.”

Some of the other local parades are organized by municipalities. The Albion parade is technically a Rotary Club event, and that’s why some Rotarians are uneasy about the floats with political messages.