By Patrick Anderson
Three floats mocking the surge in pregnancies at Gloucester High School in a Beverly Independence Day parade are drawing outrage from city residents and officials concerned the displays will be viewed as an attack on Gloucester and cause divisions between the two communities.
The floats, featured in the traditionally controversial, politically incorrect Beverly Farms Horribles Parade on Friday, included signs attributing promiscuity among GHS students as the cause for a fourfold increase in pregnancies this year.
Mayor Carolyn Kirk, who blasted the parade over the weekend, said yesterday she had stopped short of calling for an apology from Beverly officials or the parade's organizing committee to avoid triggering class warfare between largely working-class Gloucester and affluent Beverly Farms.
"I am not going to get into a dispute with a neighboring community that could start a class war," Kirk said. "I don't want to escalate it or trigger any further dispute."
In a prepared statement on the issue released yesterday, Kirk reaffirmed her displeasure with the floats and handling of the parade, but indicated that the city would try to quickly move on.
"The city of Gloucester is deeply offended by certain individuals trivializing and making a mockery of teenage pregnancy, which unfortunately is a national problem that we as a society must confront," the statement said. "Our focus in Gloucester is on addressing this issue and beginning a constructive and useful dialogue that will benefit our community. I am confident that Gloucester will rise to the challenge."
Video of the parade was posted online at the Web site youtube.com and images of one of the floats, on which was mounted an oversized phallus that sprayed water into the crowd, quickly circulated among residents.
"It was disgusting to do that with so many little kids around," said Dan Brown, 21, of Liberty Street. "I don't know why they would go that far. Maybe they do have something against us."
From that float, condoms were tossed to the crowd and young girls with large stomachs filled desks in a mock classroom.
The truck pulling the float belonged to McInnis Paving Inc. and was covered with raunchy signs, such as "Knock'em Up High, where expectations are low, Gloucester, Ma."
Calls to McInnis Paving were not returned.
On another float, young people portraying teenage girls with fake babies performed a choreographed dance, while, on a third float, men in diapers emerged from between the legs of a giant model of a woman.
Signs on that float said: "Maternity is a bitch, then you graduate."
Attempts to reach members of the Beverly Farms Parade Committee by phone were unsuccessful, but in a prepared statement the committee said the decisions made by some of the float creators were regrettable.
"This year several floats participating in our parade sparked controversy and we regret it. While they were officially registered in the parade, these initial float concepts were considerably different than those that ended up marching. The committee is currently investigating how this happened to ensure it does not occur in the future."
The Fourth of July Horribles Parade is privately funded, and Beverly Mayor William Scanlon said because the parade was not managed by the city, he did not intend to issue an apology to Gloucester.
"I am sorry if anyone from Gloucester's feelings are hurt," Scanlon said. "I regret that but have nothing to do with the parade. The parade has gone on for 100 years, and lots of people's feelings have been hurt."
Scanlon, who said he had not watched the parade, declined to comment further on the contents of the floats.
Beverly issues a permit for the annual parade, and Scanlon said at the moment there were no plans to review the parade's permit or change the permitting process.
Last year's parade took satiric aim at the issue of immigration, with jokes poking fun at Mexican laborers.
"Horribles" parades, which date back to the 19th century, are fixtures in many towns on July 4 and usually include young people dressed as goblins and monsters.
In Gloucester, the Fishtown Horribles Parade, which also took place on Thursday, is typically less controversial and political than Beverly's.
Fishtown Horribles organizer David Tucker said yesterday that Gloucester parade organizers check the floats to prevent possible controversies.
"We do keep an eye on what goes out of the yard, and if there was something like that, we would pull them back," Tucker said. "We do this for the kids, and I would hate to see this happen with all those kids around."
Gloucester resident Lilly Salah, a mother of three girls, called the pregnancy-related displays "outrageous" and "shameful."
"We can all have differing opinions, but this is X-rated," Salah said. "I am dumbfounded by this gang mentality and hope (Scanlon) issues an apology. How can the parents of these kids sanction this?"
Patrick Anderson can be reached at email@example.com.
Staff reporter Steve Landwehr contributed to this story. Material from Associated Press was also used.