Focus on safety during parades

Published 8:00 am Thursday, November 24, 2022

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Our antique Ford farm truck always was a hit in various local parades where we participated. It was a way to promote our farm as well as local farming in general, but as the driver, I could hardly wait until it was over.


If you have never driven in a parade, you might think it’s all about waving and smiling to the crowd, but it isn’t.

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I was reminded of that a few days ago when news came that at the start of the annual Christmas parade in Raleigh, a pickup truck pulling a float failed to stop. Tragically, a young girl was killed.


Police are still investigating, but the 20-year-old driver was arrested and faces several charges, including carrying a firearm in a parade, misdemeanor death, careless and reckless driving, unsafe movement and improper equipment.


The truck he was driving had been modified from the original GMC manufacturing specification. It’s the macho thing to do these days. The modifications are often performed by untrained and inexperienced people. Chief among them is to “lift” the truck, or make it so high off the ground that only either a 20-year-old or an orangutan can climb into it. It’s impossible for the driver to see the street in front of them. And, this shouldn’t surprise you, the State of North Carolina really doesn’t care what you do to modify your vehicle. You can tint the windows so dark that no one, including the cops, can see inside. You can have the wheels extending so far outside the truck’s footprint that it’s a struggle for the driver to keep it in the lane.


What could possibly go wrong?


The driver said he couldn’t control his truck, but it was moving at a very low speed. He said it wouldn’t stop.


Investigators doubtless will look to determine whether all those modifications resulted in damage to the braking system.


We used to drive in several local holiday parades in Forest City, Rutherfordton and the annual Coon Dog Day Festival in Saluda in July. Most parade organizers do little, if anything, to prohibit one of the most dangerous facets of parades–throwing candy to the crowd.


We did it the first year because we knew that’s what everyone did, but after we saw children darting from the crowd in hopes of snagging a piece of candy, we stopped that practice.


Even then, I always worried that a child would rush out onto the street and under the wheels of my truck. I could never enjoy it.


Not until I passed the finish line was I ever able to relax, and I’m thankful I no longer do it.


Larry McDermott is a local retired farmer/journalist. Reach him at