HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - Hattiesburg's Mardi Gras parade rolls this Saturday, and floats will be throwing beads and souvenirs, despite some obscene candy being thrown at a different parade and confusion about the city's parade ordinance.
"You get rolling, and you look at one child when they see that big parade and things being thrown for free off of the floats," Melissa Davis, director of Caerus parade said. "The look on that one child's face is worth a million dollars to me."
But after some inappropriate candy was thrown off a float during the city's Halloween parade, some were not sure if Hattiesburg's parade ordinance allowed items to be thrown off of floats.
"After understanding exactly what it says, and what it doesn't say, it doesn't prohibit the throws," Hattiesburg City Council President Kim Bradley said. "But I think that it leaves the door open that if the privilege is abused, then it can be taken away. As long as people use common sense, somewhat follow the law, I believe it's going to be fine."
Lt. Jon Traxler with the Hattiesburg Police Department said, ""We're still working with the city on a new ordinance to be able to allow certain things to be thrown. Again that's one of the things we want to make sure is that everybody is safe, so that's still an ongoing process. It hasn't been finalized, so this is kind of the test of it to see what we're going to be able to do and what we're not going to be able to do."
"It's a great thing," Bradley said. "It's been wonderful for the last four, five years. I've ridden in it myself. A lot of people come out, and the city doesn't need to get in the way of anything like this. The city needs to do everything that it can to make it be the absolute best it can be, so that people can come enjoy themselves."
"We really haven't had any issues or questions about it," Davis said.
Bradley said that is likely because the krewe released a specific list of parade rules.
"It specifically addresses what you throw because this is a family friendly parade," he said.
Lance Sanderford, captain of Caerus and owner of Magnolia Graphics Screenprinting, said he is excited about the variety of throws created for this year's parade.
"A lot more diverse throws," he said. "When we first started it was mainly beads. That's one thing we want to let people know that are thinking 'oh well, it's just beads. Been there and done that.' We're really pushing for a lot of diverse throws. We have thousands of min moon pies, plush toys, hand clapper toys, horns, thousands of cups, wooden nickels that get you a free cup of coffee. Just all kinds of stuff."
Sanderford said he has 6,000 throws from his float and none of them are beads.
Traxler said the department will be out in force, and if someone sees something inappropriate being thrown, he or she should say something.
"If there's anything that comes off of a float that is inappropriate in any way, there will be police officers all up and down the route," Traxler said. "We ask that they grab an officer real quick, tell them what they got, tell them what float it came off of, and that way we can put a stop to it as soon as possible."
Aside from monitoring float throws, Traxler said HPD officers, volunteers and off duty officers are there to keep the thousands of spectators safe.
"Keep the kids back for us please," he said. "We don't want any kids to get run over or hurt in any way. We will have walkers also that will be marshalling all the floats down the parade route, so if the see a kid coming out, they're going to try to push them back. We'll have plain clothes officers in the crowd as well, so those who wish to plan for ill things to go on up there, be mindful. You never know when that plain clothes officer might be standing there, so be mindful of that also. We'll be watching."
Traxler said HPD will be working with the Forrest County Sheriff's Department, University Police from Southern Miss and Mississippi Highway Patrol on Saturday as well.
As far as parade specifics, Davis said floats will start lining up at 7:30 Saturday morning, and the parade will accept new entries until 9 a.m. as long as drivers fill out an entry form, pay the fee, have a copy of insurance and a valid drivers' license on hand.
Davis also said spectators should come hungry.
"All of the restaurants will be fully stocked with food and beverage, and we will have king cakes for sale at the Keith''s Superstores float up until parade time," she said. "And another interesting highlight at the Keith's Superstores float, the Saintsations will be joining us again this year, and they will be riding our float in the parade."
Davis said the parade chooses a charity or charities to donate proceeds to every year, and this year money is going to animals in need.
"This year we wanted to spread it among many charities, so we chose the local animal shelters," she said. "Local meaning Forrest and Jones counties, which includes five animal shelters."
Caerus rolls on Saturday, Jan. 16 at 11 a.m.