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.