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PROVO — America's Freedom Festival at Provo may have wrapped up Wednesday, but there's still an echo.

Rumors are circulating in Provo that the festival's parade chairman might be resigning because of a disagreement about where to place U.S. Rep. Chris Cannon, R-Utah, in the parade.

Mark Stoddard, the festival parade chairman, told the Deseret News he has indeed decided to leave his post but that it has nothing to do with Cannon or his placement in the parade. Stoddard said he believed from the start that two years at the helm would be enough.

Neither the festival's executive board nor its press office had heard anything from Stoddard about a possible resignation.

The problem with Cannon originated when the executive board moved him ahead in the parade lineup.

Cannon was slated to run in the 42nd spot of 105 entries in the parade. The parade, which started at 9 a.m., wouldn't have left time for Cannon to travel to Magna to participate in its parade beginning at noon.

Jeff Hartley, Cannon's communication's director, said this was strictly an issue of time. They were simply afraid running No. 42 wouldn't allow them time to get to Magna.

Stoddard had Cannon placed behind the Utah County Democrats' float and Berg Mortuary and just in front of Franklin the Turtle, having Cannon off the parade route by 10:30, said Stoddard.

Linda Walton, Freedom Festival media representative, said traditionally the parade lineup starts with national dignitaries, then state then local. She wasn't sure why Cannon was placed where he was but says it was a little out of the ordinary.

Cannon was reportedly moved up to the 16th spot, placing him just behind Provo Mayor Lewis Billings and the Provo City Council.

Ren Allred, the festival's executive director, said the executive board has the perogative to step in and make any final decisions regarding decisions made by the festival's varied activities boards.

Allred said Stoddard, in his second year as parade chairman, had worked hard at his post.

Stoddard worked as communications director for Cannon last fall for two months before resigning. He's been involved with the Freedom Festival for about 12 years in different positions and doing different things.

"We appreciate the work he and all volunteers do," Allred said of Stoddard.

Cannon's staff had a different view of Stoddard's actions as parade chairman.

"His true intent was to take a pot shot at Rep. Cannon," Hartley said.

Hartley said Stoddard is simply a disgruntled ex-employee who wanted to take a cheap shot at Cannon.

Stoddard said Cannon's office making this a personal issue is "paranoia in high gear."

"I take the job I was asked to do very seriously," Stoddard said. He said he has the responsibility to the parade fun for people watching, and he feels like he did that.

Festival organizers review the performance of all their main volunteers every year after the festival ends and give the volunteers the choice of returning or resigning, Walton said.

She said it looked like Stoddard just decided a little early.


E-MAIL: rrogers@desnews.com