Middletown, Delaware approves new guidelines for controversial parade

Jack Schreppler, the 'disorganizer' of the Hummers parade, stands at the corner of Cass and Cochran in Middletown, Delaware, where the parade began in 1971. (John Mussoni/WHYY)

Jack Schreppler, the 'disorganizer' of the Hummers parade, stands at the corner of Cass and Cochran in Middletown, Delaware, where the parade began in 1971. (John Mussoni/WHYY)

The annual Hummers Parade in Middletown, Delaware has typically been a showcase for the off-kilter. The New Year’s Day tradition in southern New Castle County is an offbeat alternative to Philadelphia’s Mummers Parade, with floats that parody pop culture and satirize things that have been in the news.

But the 2019 parade went beyond the line of decency for some. A float depicting migrant children in cages at the U.S.-Mexico border drew protests in the days following the parade. Some on social media described the images as “racist” and “heartless.” The Delaware State Senate Democratic Caucus posted on Facebook that the tenor of the floats was “divisive, mean-spirited, and entirely counter to our state’s values.”

There was some question of whether the event would or should be allowed to continue. On Wednesday night, Middletown’s Mayor and Council distanced themselves from any criticism about the parade as they approved new guidelines for any future parades held in town. The first item in the new rules states that the town “does not, nor has it ever, sponsored a parade.”

The town will continue to issue parade permits. While the new rules don’t specifically restrict parade content, they do call for the event to be conducted in a way that doesn’t “incite violence or other unlawful behavior. It is the town’s hope and desire that all parade activities are conducted in such a way as to preserve recognized First Amendment rights while, concomitantly, recognizing the rights of others in attendance,” the guidelines state.

While town leaders hope for a civil parade, the guidelines do not explicitly say what is or is not appropriate and there is no language on any penalty for violating the new guidelines.

Middletown Mayor Kenneth Branner did not return a call seeking comment. Parade organizer Jack Schreppler was also unavailable to comment on the new guidelines.

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