|Anoka Halloween Colage Courtesy Of City Pages Blog|
In the letter written by co-chair of the board of organizers of the annual Anoka Halloween Parade, Elizabeth A McFarland, Justin's Gift was told: "At this time we are unable to accept your application for the parade," the letter said. "We have reached our maximum for walking units." Anoka Halloween is the nonprofit that organizes the annual parade.
However, according to Minnesota Public Radio, there are two problems with the contents of that letter. MPR reported that the application for the parade license, obtained by MPR News, was not submitted until today [ Wednesday Oct. 10]— 15 days after Justin's Gift was told the parade was full.
The second issue is that Anoka Police Chief Philip Johanson said he is not aware of any official limit on the number of parade participants, although he said the parade route needs to be approved in advance to allow enough time for public safety officials to redirect traffic.
In the application received today by Anoka city officials requesting issuance of proper permits and necessary notifications of city public safety departments, McFarland, estimated the parade will include approximately 31,000 people, 250 parade units, 200 vehicles, 50 dogs and 12 horses.
Tammy Aaberg founded the group Justin's Gift on behalf of her son who committed suicide in 2010. Jefferson Fietek, a teacher and one of the adult coordinators of Justin's Gift said:
"The history of the [Anoka Halloween] organization is showcasing youth organizations; that's confusing to us," he said. "Especially when there's outside groups marching, we got bumped?"About 30 students planned to walk in the Halloween parade and had selected a theme, as required by parade organizers, said Fietek. They planned to dress up as their favorite fairy-tale characters.
"The kids are pretty upset," he said. "We're trying to show these kids that they're part of the community and unfortunately it backfired and sent a completely different message."Calls and e-mails to Elizabeth McFarland and co-chairman of the event by MPR, The Star-Tribune, and other media outlets including LGBTQNation seeking comment were unanswered or not returned. Her husband and the president of the Anoka Halloween board of directors, Jeremy McFarland, said Wednesday that other groups have been denied applications as well, but he declined to talk further about the organization Justin's Gift and its participation in the parade.
Fietek commented that the decision "doesn't seem to be very well-thought-out."
Recently Justin's Gift announced we were not accepted into the Anoka Halloween Parade. We did not speculate on the motives of the committee, we simply made a statement about the application denial and provided what little information we were given.
Justin's Gift wishes to thank those community members and organizations who have show overwhelming positive support of our youth in regards to our being denied participation in the Anoka Halloween parade! Though we had hoped participating in the parade would be an opportunity to show our youth their community supports them, we instead plan to share the positive responses we have received from so many of you with them.
We would like to address two questions that have been frequently asked regarding this situation:
1. Yes, our application was received by the Committee on time and filled out correctly. The application did not state that this was a first come first serve event nor did it state that there was a cut off in the parade's length nor number of walkers.
2. No, we did not reach out to any press in regards to our parade application being denied. It was local community members who reached out to the media.
For nearly two weeks, community members received no response from repeated requests for information from the Anoka Halloween Parade Committee. The Committee's silence raised concern and questions in their minds, which seemed a logical conclusion based on the recent cases of public discrimination by our school district, and they then shared their feelings with the media.
We were also notified by the press that they too were finding it incredibly difficult getting information from the Committee. The piece that we find most unfortunate in all of this is that we had hoped by walking in the Anoka Halloween Parade that we would not only be showing our youth that they were a welcome part of the Anoka Community but was to also be a public step towards the healing of a community that went through a very public and very ugly situation in regards to our LGBT youth.