Vt. Parade Puts Politicians on Sidelines

(NECN: Jack Thurston, Northfield, Vt.) - Thousands come to Northfield, Vt. each year for the state's largest Labor Day parade. They see the marching Corps of Cadets from Norwich University, the classic cars, and the old-time muskets and cannons. But the crowds won't see politicians coming down the parade route. There is no campaigning allowed in the middle of the street for this event.

Despite the long-standing rule, politicians are encouraged to shake hands and meet parade-goers close to the sidewalks and in the town common. Gov. Peter Shumlin, D-Vt. and Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt. did just that Monday. "The rules are no politicians in the parade," Congressman Welch said. "But it's really a lot of fun to be here and I've never seen the Cadets-- 1400 strong-- march. That was really the most impressive sight for me."

Politicians are to most holiday parades as hot dogs are to cookouts, but Northfield figures the audience here could use a day off from all that election year campaigning. The parade's focus is on community instead of candidates. "I really think that parades are for kids," said Catrina Holtz, the mother of a 3-year-old. "And they don't need to see that: they don't know who [the politicians] are!"

"We just like to keep it fun for everyone," explained Charlene McCarney, a member of the parade organizing committee and this year's grand marshal. "It's the last event of the summer!"

Vermont held its primary last week, and broadcasters are airing political ads in advance of the presidential election this November, so politics have been hard to avoid. McCarney said for this one day, campaigning can take a backseat. "I'm also on the board of civil authority, so we will be busy come November," she chuckled.

Vince Illuzzi, the Republican who wants to be Vermont's next state auditor, was on the far outskirts of the downtown, waving to people heading to the parade. "It's unusual," he acknowledged. "But what I find is there's some rationale to it. They want to make it about the community and the day that [the parade] recognizes, but it's still a great opportunity to meet folks out here."

The politicians would probably have a hard time competing for attention with the antique tractors, animals, and Shriners, anyway. But don't worry about the politicians: they'll have plenty of time in the spotlight right up until election day.

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