The Keystone Kops’ miniature vehicles may have brought joy to the thousands of children who came out to watch the Downtown
St. John’s Christmas Parade Sunday, but at least one older attendee worries they will harm a child.
“They’re only trying to give the kids a thrill, I know,” said Ron Howell. “But I’m telling you — Murphy’s Law — if something can happen, it will happen. Someone is going to be killed down there.”
Howell was at the parade Sunday with two of his grandchildren.
“I don’t want to — pardon the pun — rain on anyone’s parade. The kids had a great time down there. It was fantastic. ... But man oh man, I can’t believe what goes on. The way they go around and stop and go. I’m just really concerned they are going to plow into a crowd of kids.”
While he understands children enjoy watching the Keystone Kops zip along the parade route, Howell said, human error could create serious trouble in such a crowded area.
“I think the potential is real.”
Allan Neil, director of the Keystone Kops for Mazol Shriners Newfoundland and Labrador, said Howell’s concerns are not widespread.
“We drove up towards the end of Water Street (Sunday) where the parade ended, and we had to pull in our trailers. We were loading our gear on the trailers, and everybody that passed by said, ‘Boys, you made the parade again this year.’”
Mazol Shriners devote their energy to the cause of sick children by flying them to Shriners hospitals located throughout North America.
“Naturally, the last thing we would want to do is to hurt a little kid, because our Number 1 obligation in the world is for kids,” said Neil.
Howell said his safety concerns are not intended to put a black mark on the Mazol Shriners.
“They do great work, especially with kids,” he said. “But that doesn’t alter the fact ... somebody can’t tell me that’s safe.”
An insurance policy is in place for the Keystone Kops’ participation in the St. John’s parade. At one point, drivers used to stop and pose for pictures with attendees along the parade and pass out treats, but they no longer do so.
“All I can ensure is that before we go on the parade, we have a little discussion and we talk about the rules and we adhere to what the organizers send out. We send in our insurance, because they won’t let us participate (without it).”
Neil said he does intend to mention Howell’s concerns to his fellow Keystone Kops.
“This is the first time that I’ve had any complaint from a watcher of the parade,” said Neil, who has been involved with the group for about five years. “The police are there. They see us. We talk to them all the time.”
Howell said he filed a complaint with the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary following the parade. A spokeswoman for the RNC told The Telegram in an email that there was “no indication that a complaint was received” in relation to the vehicles used by the Keystone Kops.
“The parade is on a closed traffic route and all who receive participation status from the City of St. John's are required to be fully insured,” she further noted in the email.