Byron parade float spurs controversy

The Trump Unity Bridge is seen here. According to County Commissioner Cindy Garber village officials in Byron initially opposed it’s inclusion in this years Byron Family Fun Day Parade.

BYRON — According to Cindy Garber, officials in the village of Byron were opposed to the inclusion of a President Donald Trump-themed float in this year’s Byron Family Fun Day Parade, but only relented after public outcry

The float, known as the Unity Bridge, is owned by Rob Cortis. He has taken it across the nation to various events, including President Trump’s inauguration.

The annual Byron parade is slated for 2 p.m. Saturday, amidst various activities, including the cardboard boat river regatta, which takes place at 3 p.m. and the duck race raffle.

Garber, who is a Republican Shiawassee County commissioner, said the conflict began a few days ago.

Garber had seen the float on the highway on her way home from southeast Michigan and decided to contact the owner to see if he would participate in Saturday’s parade. She said after making contact with Cortis, he agreed to participate, so she began to publicize that it was going to be there.

That’s when, she said, she got a call from Byron school Superintendent Tricia Murphy-Alderman, who leading parade planning efforts.

“It kind of had a hostile tone right from the beginning. She said ‘I heard you want to have this float and you don’t have permission.’ I said hey, I don’t know the process this year. I thought people could just sign up the same day as they always have and it just went downhill from there.”

Garber said village officials were unsure there would be a parade and the process to obtain a permit for a float was unclear.

“If you didn’t know a week ago if you’re even going to have a parade … Where do you get a permit? Where do you sign up?” Garber said.

Garber said Murphy-Alderman wouldn’t give approval for the float.

“She said that it was divisive and that she would have to get her committee together to decide if it was allowed or not,” Garber claimed.

Garber said that in years past, the process of getting a float in the parade was pretty informal and could take place the same day as the parade.

In an emailed statement, Murphy-Alderman said, “In the spring of 2018, the Byron Village Park Board ceased to exist. This had been the organization that sponsored and planned the traditional Byron Family Fun Day and the parade.

“As the superintendent of Byron Area Schools who is a member of the Byron Area Chamber of Commerce and a past member of the village of Byron DDA, we at Byron Area Schools are involved and committed to the Byron community and felt that this family celebration tradition should continue. Working with a group of leaders from community organizations as well as community members, we developed and implemented a plan for this traditional community event,” she wrote.

Murphy-Alderman added: “Once again to allow for the continuation of the parade, the district stepped into the leadership role. We will be continuing to use the same process for parade entries.”

Parade viewers will be able to see Cortis’ float Saturday.

Garber thinks there’s one reason the float did not immediately receive approval to ride in the parade.

“President Trump. I mean I’m a Republican there’s no secret about that. At the end of the day who the president is… I’m not sure that really affects my day to day. But it’s like he is the president of the United States … come on, the float should not be divisive. The float is really kind of out there, it’s crazy and looks like a lot of fun. The backlash has probably been good for the float, more people will end up seeing it,” she said.

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