Sunday, June 17, 2018

Should parade marchers ask permission to toss candy at kids?

On the first Sunday of June each year, there's a parade down a three-mile stretch of an avenue that cuts through several neighborhoods, including mine, in a section of Boston. Originally held in 1904, to commemorate the 274th anniversary of the settlement of Dorchester (which was annexed to become part of Boston in 1870) there's always a good turnout for the Dorchester Day Parade. By our neighborhood, there are many pub and restaurant patrons that pour out onto the street to watch and cheer.

If we are in town on that first Sunday, my wife and I walk up to the parade route to watch local bands, dancers, politicians, trade union representatives, community center workers, and others march by. Other family and neighbors often join us. While its original intent might be unknown to many onlookers, the parade serves as an unofficial welcome to summer, and an opportunity for neighbors to get out and be among one another. It doesn't quite have the more personal flavor of the annual neighborhood yard sale at the end of the summer when neighbors sell off their old stuff to one another, or Halloween where upwards of 500 costumed trick or treaters make the rounds. But the parade provides a couple of hours of the community coming together to celebrate whoever happens to be marching that year. It also provides newcomers to the neighborhood a chance to get a feel for the neighborhood.

The street is lined on both sides with adults and children. The politicians often distribute stickers or placards promoting themselves. The community center workers often toss embossed items (hand sanitizer and inflatable beach balls seemed big items this year) to watchers. But the mainstay in terms of handouts has always been candy of one sort or another -- sometimes tossed by the handful from parade participants on floats passing by, and other times handed out more directly from buckets carried by marchers.

This year was no different. Lots of candy strewn about and lots of toddlers and young kids scurrying the side of the streets to pick up the candy pieces.

On our walk back to the house, a young parent with two toddlers in tow engaged us in conversation.

"My kids can't eat candy," she said, telling us she had to make sure that anything they'd received at the parade they handed over to her. "Shouldn't the marchers ask parents if it's OK to give their kids candy before they offer it?"

In a perfect world, maybe. But no, aside from trying to make sure they don't hurl candy too forcefully at the crowd so it ends up hitting a kid in the noggin, they have not crossed any ethical lines with their distribution.

It would be wrong, however, for a toddler or young child to attend a parade on a large city street unattended by an adult. It's that adult's responsibility to make sure that the child doesn't consume or play with anything that might be harmful.

The right thing on a parade route is for a parent, such as the young woman who engaged us, to keep an eye on her kids and monitor what they might be eating during a parade. That the mother did this is good, and what any good parent or supervising adult should have been expected to do. 

Jeffrey L. Seglin, author of The Simple Art of Business Etiquette: How to Rise to the Top by Playing Nice, is a senior lecturer in public policy and director of the communications program at Harvard's Kennedy School. He is also the administrator of, a blog focused on ethical issues. 

Do you have ethical questions that you need answered? Send them to 

Follow him on Twitter: @jseglin 


Should parade marchers ask permission to toss candy at kids?

On the first Sunday of June each year, there's a parade down a three-mile stretch of an avenue that cuts through several neighborhoo...