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Provo wants to pull plug on parade poppers

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City officials are looking for a way to keep youngsters from popping off at the annual Fourth of July parade.

Small fireworks known as poppers or snappers spooked a horse on Center Street during the Freedom Festival parade earlier this month. The horse, which was being led by its rider, jumped over a row of spectators and took off."In fact, it almost killed a couple of kids," said City Council Chairman Greg Hudnall, who raised the popper issue at Tuesday's council meeting.

The Provo High School marching band and others in the procession complained to Hudnall that children tossed the tiny explosives at them as they passed. A Salt Lake bagpipe band won't return to the parade after being pelted with poppers, he said.

"It seems like it's almost become a tradition to try to throw those at people in the parade," Hudnall said. It's a tradition he'd like to do away with.

Parade organizers have tried for years to keep children from throwing snappers, said Councilman Paul Warner, a Freedom Festival vice president. The Freedom Festival even hired private security officers to patrol the streets one year.

"That is the most difficult thing we've ever tried to stop," he said.

Warnings made over the public address systems at some intersections during this year's parade apparently did little to muffle the snap, crackle and pop.

Council members suggested appealing to parents in the Freedom Festival magazine that is mailed to every household in Utah County or in the mayor's message Provo residents receive with their monthly utility bills. Councilwoman Cindy Richards went so far as to suggest that police issue fines or tickets for bombarding parade entries with snappers.

Mayor Lewis Billings said the city ought to look at other ways for children to interact with people in the parade. Youngsters could come armed with squirt guns rather than fireworks, he jokingly suggested.

Billings noted that City Hall received calls from people wondering why candy is no longer tossed to parade goers. Maybe a few of those disgruntled sugar addicts are fighting back with poppers.

"If we're not going to throw, I guess they're going to," he said.

Knowing it's unlikely the city will be able to take the snap out of the parade, Councilwoman Shari Holweg offered perhaps the best solution.

"We could also say only throw poppers at politicians. He who hits the most wins a prize," she said.