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UPDATED: Dance Group Angered Over Dexter Memorial Day Parade Requirements

Commercial businesses will not be allowed in this year's parade in an attempt to refocus the celebration on local veterans.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to accurately report that Dexter Village officials are not involved with the planning of the Memorial Day parade.

Plans to limit the size and scope of this year's Memorial Day parade in Dexter have come under criticism by community groups, who say they've been turned away after following new guidelines established for the 68th annual event.

"In the past, anyone that wanted to could be in the parade," Donna Fisher, a member of the parade planning committee said. "We had politicians passing out campaign materials and businesses handing out fliers. We're not doing that this year. One of the biggest complaints we've received from veterans over the years is that Memorial Day was becoming too much like another Dexter Daze festival."

As community groups begin filing applications to participate in this year’s event, however, some parents say the guidelines are too restrictive.

Melissa Barnabo’s daughter is one of several students in Jenney Lynn's Baton Twirling Academy sponsored by Dexter Community Education. Barnabo said the class was turned away because owner Jenney Gordon filed the parade application under her business name instead of Dexter Community Schools.

According to the online registration form, permitted entries include veterans organizations and members of the military, the Dexter Area Fire Department and Scio Township Fire Department, local community groups conveying a sense of patriotism, Dexter Community Schools organizations, and government elected officials.

"I do not disagree with the committee about the need to control commercialization creeping into the parade, but I do disagree with the timing of informing groups about the changes," Barnabo said. "The girls have been practicing all year. They are cognizant on why we are having a parade. To tell them five days before Memorial Day that they can't walk in the parade is not right."

Fisher said the parade's length, which in years past clocked in over an hour, was one reason why the pulled completely away from the village's festivities last year.

"The veterans lead the parade. They don't want to be standing around for another hour watching the parade when they have other ceremonies they need to attend," Fisher said.

As a result, guidelines, which were established by a committee of representatives from the Dexter American Legion and Dexter Area Historical Society, require that groups participating in the parade have some relation to the theme of "A Time to Honor." In addition, unlike previous years, the parade is not open to commercial businesses.

Committee member Mike Howard said the intent was never to exclude children from the parade.

"The guidelines say no commercial entities. Where do we draw the line? We can't say yes to one business because that have children, and no to another business. The committee is trying to stay consistent with the applications," he said.

Similar applications from various church groups, the Dexter Community Players, and Civil War Days volunteers were also reviewed, but applicants were told participants could not have sign or banners advertising an event. Participants are allowed to distribute fliers promoting an upcoming event, however.

"Most groups we've talked to are fine about refocusing their participation in the parade. I'm not out to hurt anyone's feelings, but I am here to be fair, and fair is to stick by the criteria that the committee outlined," Fisher said.

Parent Mary Layher said in the future, she would like to see the committee reconsider limiting groups in the parade.

"I am a very dedicated, patriotic person. Our whole family that lives in Dexter is," she said. "What a perfect time to have a community celebration after the devastating tornado that so many are still struggling with. Telling all the little Dexter girls and boys that they cannot march in the parade because they don’t belong is truly unbelievable. The parade is as example of the community spirit of Dexter."

Fisher said the parade committee will review the event and make a recommendation for next year. In addition, plans for a Fourth of July parade to include groups who felt left out of the Memorial Day parade are currently being discussed.

The 68th annual Dexter Memorial Day parade will take place at 10 a.m. May 28, following a brief ceremony at . The parade will begin on Kensington Street near and proceed down Main Street to Alpine Street and the Dexter Farmers' Market.

Jennifer May 24, 2012 at 12:41 PM
From a family of veterans, I am very disappointed in the choice to limit the parade participants. We attend the parade yearly to show support of our veterans and all they have stood and fought for including that our children in our country are free to participate in these clubs and organizations that are no longer aloud to walk in the parade. The parade is a sign of our community pride and support for our veterans and our community. This does not have to be one or the other. So disappointed that decisions were made without proper notification and discussion among the public. Now I am concerned that so many of our Dexter families, like mine due to this decision, will not attend the parade and in the end not show the support that our veterans so much deserve.
Pat May 24, 2012 at 01:32 PM
Let the twirlers twirl!
Another Jennifer May 24, 2012 at 01:48 PM
@Jennifer: There are plenty of opportunities for local groups, businesses, politicians and organizations to participate in and show their community pride. This is Memorial Day - a time to recognize our veterans and others who put their lives on the line. I did not read that there will be NO children allowed, just no commercial entities. While the new guidelines may need a few tweaks, which the committee said they will make recommendations for next year, this is no reason to boycott the parade and ceremonies. You state you "will not attend the parade and in the end not show the support that our veterans so much deserve", Why? Because some kids can't walk in the parade. What message are you sending to the veterans? Who is this about? Some kids or the veterans? Why not line the streets with these kids, put American flags in their hands and teach them to show respect for these brave men and women. When Dexter Daze comes around, when it's all about our community of Dexter, then it can be open to everyone. This is about the veterans and those who gave their lives so both you and I can express our opinions. As the saying goes: "Don't cut off your nose to spite your face."
Don Darnell May 24, 2012 at 02:01 PM
A parade should be whatever the people of Dexter want it to be. However, those same people should respect that Memorial Day is a holiday to remember American warfighters who died in the service of these United States.
Barbara Read May 24, 2012 at 03:02 PM
If the twirlers are sponsored by community ed., and they put the wrong thing on the registration form, but filed in time, then they should certainly be allowed to make the registration change and still participate. It's not an exception, but a clarification. To refuse them because of a clerical misunderstanding would not make sense. Have you asked the committee to correct your registration? I really don't think the twirlers would detract from the honor to our veterans. Especially if they are not carrying a banner or advertising the class. Bands and twirlers go hand in glove with parades. I think the parade would be lucky to have you.
Kimberly May 24, 2012 at 03:52 PM
The need to keep the Memorial Day parade focus on our veterans is hugely important and I don't believe anyone would deny the intent. The conflict is that a group within the community (aka Dexter American Legion, Dexter Area Historical Society, and Village of Dexter) made these decision without working with the other "stakeholders." If a change in the style of parade was to take place - then a letter or email in PLENTY of time for the twirlers, karate choppers, bikers, etc to adjust their thinking and not spend their time planning for the event should have happened. A note in the Dexter Patch and Dexter Leader was just not enough. For some groups the event participation has been years so the planning for the event, manpower, money and time invested to produce a great product to display has been disrespected. The group's heart is in the right place to make the changes, but the lack of respect, understanding and willingness to inform for the past participants is where this act of Patriotism went wrong.
Mary Gilson Layher May 24, 2012 at 04:43 PM
Amen, Kimberly - well stated. The "timing" is the whole point. Last minute change should not be done with something this large and so many involved. The focus of this parade IS MEMORIAL DAY. The committee seems to be perceiving otherwise. This parade in our family oriented wonderful community is an opportunity to bring to mind this great day. What an opportunity to initiate conversation regarding patriotism, heroes, military, sacrifice, and most of all freedom. This parade HONORS VETS---just ask my father, who's 93, a U.S. Marine from WWII and survived on Iwo Jima, and will be in the parade what he thinks. He cannot believe his 7 year old great grandaughter's baton group has been told "no" because they are "commercial". Why shouldn't Cribley Drilling be allowed to show their patriotism?!? They have been a part of giving to this community, as well as, the politicians and the rest of them. They are who Dexter is and want to show their honor to the Vets by being in the parade. The committee is assuming otherwise. It is a lot for everyone to do on that day, but they are giving and sharing with the community to celebrate all the holiday represents. I am opposed to Dexter considering another parade just to pacify "everyone"--more expense, dilution of community interest (too many parades!). Keep Memorial Day parade as it is - Everyone come celebrate our Veterans and community!!!
Daniel Lai May 24, 2012 at 05:36 PM
Dexter Patch is not affiliated with the Dexter Leader. They are two separate companies.
Melissa Barnabo May 24, 2012 at 06:36 PM
One of the major sentiments that I expressed several times that is missing from this article is that this parade is for the Veterans. I am so grateful for the service and sacrifices that they have made for our country. The parade is an opportunity for the Dexter community members to come together to celebrate and pay tribute to our Veterans. My daughter Elle is completely aware of why she is marching in the Memorial Day parade, and it is quite personal to her. Her 93 year old great boppa (as she calls him) served as a Marine in WWII and her boppa served in Vietnam. They both attend the parade and love to see Elle march and twirl for them and all the other Veterans. Last year after the parade our entire family went to the American Legion to continue our show of support. After the gun salute Elle saved bullet casings and gave one to her boppa and one to her great boppa. She also gave them a big hug and thanks for their love and sacrifice to our country. The baton twirling group is a member of the Dexter community rec and ed. This group should be allowed to march according to the rules stated on the Village's website. Even after Miss Jenney resubmitted the application she was turned down. Cathy at the rec and ed office would be willing to speak with anyone to help clarify her affiliation with the Dexter community schools.
Melissa Barnabo May 24, 2012 at 06:37 PM
Also I would like to note that Mary Layher whom is quoted in this article is Elle's amma!!
Kimberly May 24, 2012 at 07:33 PM
1. I do know the Dexter Patch and Dexter Leader are separate. The information was posted in both newspapers. My point was that was the ONLY means of communication regarding the changes. 2. The village of Dexter IS INVOLVED since it provides some staff resources therefore financial support EXAMPLE: taken from the village of Dexter website - If your organization wishes to participate, please review the allowed entries and restrictions listed and submit the Parade Registration Form. Forms are available at the Village Office and on the Village website (www.villageofdexter.org). The form itself has the Village of Dexter listed as part of the partnership. The reporter could do a little more research and find out exactly who participated in the meeting to make this decision and if anyone who represents the village (council or staff) was present. And how did they base their decisions. Who complained? Where there any positive comments? Was the veterans who have been involved asked? Or was this a small group of people making decisions for the mass with only their opinion?
Barbara Read May 24, 2012 at 07:52 PM
Well said. Thank you, Melissa. The last thing anyone would want is to have bad feelings about the parade or the veterans. We also need to remember that whoever is making the final decisions about who's in and who's out of the parade does not necessarily speak for the men and women we are actually honoring at the event. By that I mean that they represent the interests of the veterans, but not necessarily the feelings of individual veterans. I hope that we can overlook the bureaucracy and still honor the people. I also hope things work out for the twirlers. You never know.
Nicola May 24, 2012 at 08:41 PM
As has been stated before, the key to remember is the veterans. This day is about remembering those who have served our country faithfully. With that in mind, I think it is important to really think about them when planning the Memorial Day festivities. Originally, the parade was a much smaller event and the closing ceremonies took place in a timely fashion. Now, the veterans (who lead the parade) must sit and wait for a couple of hours while the rest of the parade goes through. While some of these veterans do not mind the wait, for several of them this is a challenge not to mention most uncomfortable. For some, it detracts from the day that is supposed to again thank them for their vast contributions to our society. Above all else, I wish that everyone would consider the vast other community activities in Dexter. There are so many other opportunities to participate in events, including the Dexter Daze parade. To refocus one event to more closely bring it back to its roots should not color the community's perspective of what is available in Dexter. If one feels there is a lack of opportunity for participation, the people of Dexter are always open to trying something new to show community spirit! Perhaps an idea to consider would be the addition of a 4th of July parade. There is one in neighboring Ann Arbor that many Dexter families participate in, but maybe it's time to have one in Dexter.
Another Jennifer May 24, 2012 at 11:02 PM
Years ago the Dexter Jaycees organized 4th of July parades. At that time, Dexter Daze was evolving from a "end of season" sidewalk sale event for downtown businesses, (like Dancers Dept. Store to get rid of summer inventory), into the festival we have today. The Jaycees were told by Village & Dexter Daze officials back then, that 3 parades a year was too much,for the town (Memorial Day, 4th of July and Dexter Daze), As far as I know, no one has tried to resurrect it since.
kim May 25, 2012 at 02:36 PM
I agree the parade should not be commercialized so let community groups and children participate; just no advertising or campaigning. I think we are honoring our veterans when the entire community comes out to the parade and then to the ceremony at the gazebo.
Eugenia Patru May 25, 2012 at 11:07 PM
The Dexter Aerican Legion is discriminating against children. The persons who issued their permi are standing by and allowing this to happen. My father, a life-long member of the American Legion, taught me to honor our veterans for risking their lives as they defend our freedoms worldwide. By discriminating against our children and our community the Legion is now deeply troubling to me. My father would never tolerate this!
Shawn May 26, 2012 at 12:28 AM
Where were you folks last year when there was no program ceremony at the gazebo after the parade. No one even noticed from these three small groups! Who was upset about not having one - we the commette. As we got closer to the days leading up to the Memorial day parade we said, " We can't let this go on for another year" and we are certainly not going to say heck the veterans/ American legion. We dicided to go and ask. What can we do to bring back YOUR parade, and YOUR ceremony? What is the complaint of the parade? How can we make this work and still honor OUR troops. They said " We need help with the parade, we are a small aging group of American Legion Members". They could no longer manage the parade that lost its' focus with no pre-registration and people simply showing up the morning of. Making the parade way to long for veterans to sit at the gazebo (up to 1 1/2 hour).
Shawn May 26, 2012 at 12:38 AM
With that in mind we decide to have a pre-registration that would omit campaign bussiness advertisement,raffles for funraisers and private sport clubs. After all thiat is why we have Dexter Daze parade. The Memorail day parade was never about that. It was a simple parade devoted to the veternsas it should be with boy scouts,girl scouts,community churches , local organization, public resource (fire/police) and the marching band playing patriotic music. If it was open to all that gives back to the community EVERYONE would be in it. We honestly thought we were doing the right thing by giving it back to whom it belongs to. We will still have the Cub scouts, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Local Churches ( St. Joesph/ Webster church) Knights of Columbus, Rotary Club, Dexter Vintage Car Club ( owned by local veterans), the Dexter High School Lacrosse, and most of all the veterans without any advertising of local events. There are SO many opportunity to see car shows, recitles, advertising, festivals, and community events.
Shawn May 26, 2012 at 12:42 AM
Born and raised here in Dexter that once was a small rural farming community has turned into yuppy people that wanted to move away from the city, but want to bring their ideas to change Dexter. My father tought me to never back down for what you believe in, and also comes to the villiage that helped raise me.
Shawn May 26, 2012 at 12:46 AM
You few folks should be ashamed of yourselves for only thinking of yourself. Because again you would have been happy with the way that parade was done last year with no ceremony at the gazabo to honor ANYONE! cuz none of you would have ever notice.....
Fort Mackinac May 27, 2012 at 03:55 PM
In one of life's many ironies, the Veterans, who don't understand that participation in the parade is a way for average folks to honor our fallen Vets, proceed to limit participation. One of the things that makes Dexter so special is the community outpouring and support shown through the Memorial Day parade. Taking my kids to the parade, and having them participate from time-to-time over the years was a great way to teach them about those who paid the ultimate sacrifice for our country. Limiting the participation means limiting those opportunities. It also means a more limited crowd for the parade and ceremonies to follow. The poor stewardship of this event means the Village and the community should consider alternatives to the current organizational structure and overall responsibility for the parade.
Jeffereo Witagliani May 28, 2012 at 12:24 AM
All candy should be thrown from moving vehicles or horses, period.
Jamie W., Life Long Dexter Resident May 28, 2012 at 12:21 PM
Perhaps this is simply a matter of changing the order of the events that are scheduled on Memorial Day? Maybe the Veterans Memorial Ceremoney at the Gazebo could take place first followed by the parade afterwards? Rather than a "Closing Ceremoney" it could be the "Opening Ceremoney"? I am sure that for some it is hard to sit and wait for a long parade if you are participating in the ceremoney held afterwards. I also agree that the parade is probably not the best time to "advertise for business". Rather than "restrict certain groups", maybe it should be a matter of adjusting the application process? If you want to participate in the parade that is dedicated to our Veterans, the one requirement would be that your participation should acknowlege the purpose of the Memorial Day Parade. For example, rather than a banner that says "Dexter School of Baton Twirling" it would be a matter of re-wording the banner.... "The Dexter School of Baton Twirling Honors our Veterans and We Thank You!" ... or "Cribly Drilling Thanks our American Vets".... Maybe we just need to think outside of the box. There is no reason to "exclude" any one group or individual... just simply get back to the "meaning of the parade".....
mark June 13, 2012 at 02:16 PM
If you were at the parade and seen the red white and blue barrel carts they were almost told, they wouldn't be permitted I talked with the person, and with the grief they gave him I would have never went. He never even got the final ok he had to summit a application for a board to review it and then they asked if he was a vet and didn't even know what he had, even though he had been at the parade the last 5 years.I don't know how much more patriotic you could be.

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