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Pumpkin fest bans pro-peace marchers

Members of the DeKalb Interfaith Network for Peace & Justice participate in the 2004 Pumpkin Festival parade. 
Chronicle file photo
Members of the DeKalb Interfaith Network for Peace & Justice participate in the 2004 Pumpkin Festival parade. Chronicle file photo

SYCAMORE - A DeKalb-based peace group known for its weekly antiwar vigils in downtown DeKalb has been denied a spot in this year's Sycamore Pumpkin Festival parade because of complaints festival organizers say they received about the group's precense in last year's parade. The DeKalb Interfaith Network for Peace & Justice has marched in the last four Pumpkin Festivals and this year is the first in which the group has applied to be in the parade but has had its application denied. Pumpkin Festival Committee President Julie Brannon early on Friday said the committee as a whole denied the group's participation. &#8221The reason we denied them is because of their behavior last year,“ Brannon said. &#8221This is meant to be a family event and there was swearing and alcohol involved. It was inappropriate behavior and it's not allowed. We had several complaints because of their behavior.“ That came as a shock to Network member Cele Meyer, who said the group received a letter giving no reason why their request to be in the parade was denied. &#8221Alcohol? Swearing? I don't think so,“ she said. &#8221They must have us mixed up with another group.“ Brannon later contacted the Chronicle to say her comments concerning the group were overly strong, but she did not reverse organizers' decision on letting the group participate. She did say organizers agreed the group was denied because of its &#8221inappropriate behavior.“ &#8221I know they participated last year and had several complaints,“ Brannon said, including verbal complaints and letters. Brannon said other political organizations that requested to be in the parade will be allowed to participate. Local Democrat and Republican groups have typically marched, as have candidates for various local and federal offices. About 100 participants will be in this year's parade set for Oct. 30. Brannon said the festival committee doesn't have to give a reason for turning down a parade applicant. The parade application states &#8221The Sycamore Pumpkin Festival Parade Committee reserves the right to restrict, limit, accept or reject any application.“ Meyer said she did not feel the Network's behavior was inappropriate last year, nor did anyone act inappropriately toward the group. &#8221Someone said that there was one person that gave us a thumbs down instead of a thumbs up,“ she said. Meyer said about 20 to 25 people and an RV participated in the parade last year as part of the Network's entry. &#8221Girls were carrying a sign that said ‘peace is a choice,'“ Meyer said. Later Friday evening, Meyer said she had spoken with festival committee vice president Rick Poe, who is in charge of arranging the parade. She claimed the Network, if allowed to march, had agreed it would carry only signs that promoted peace, not any that referred to any particular political issue, war or federal office holder. &#8221I suggested that we might not mention the Iraq war or President Bush,“ she said, detailing her conversation with Poe. Poe said he was not able to reach all of the committee's members about Meyer's proposal and made the decision himself to not allow the group to march. &#8221I feel that it is a political statement,“ Poe said in a telephone interview Friday. &#8221Anything that is controversial is not what we're tying to portray in the pumpkin festival.“ Asked specifically which of the group's statements were political, Poe said &#8221no comment“ and ended the conversation. Brannon also declined to comment on Meyer's later statements and referred any further questions to Poe. City Editor Chris Rickert contributed to this report. Aracely Hernandez can be reached at ahernandez@daily-chronicle.com.

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