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Wagner makes parade changes to avoid repeat of last year's mule incident

Emergency workers load three people onto ambulances after mules ran loose during the 2010 Wagner Labor Day parade. Organizers are taking steps this year to make sure it doesn't happen again. (Chris Huber/Republic)

WAGNER -- Parade organizers at Wagner have taken precautions to enhance the safety of parade-goers this Labor Day.

In 2010, two mules ran loose during the annual Labor Day parade, injuring three people. This year, the parade committee has incorporated walkers -- people who will walk along the sidewalks passing out treats.

Mike Frei, parade committee chairman, said the walkers will help prevent injuries. Typically, people throw treats from a parade entry, which invites children to run into the street. This activity could spook animals in the parade, but keeping children and other spectators on the sidelines could help prevent anyone from getting run over or injured by floats and other entries, organizers hope.

"We also have an expert in horses that is going to inspect all the horses' gear before the parade starts," Frei said. "If any of the equipment is iffy or antiquated or worn out, we won't allow that entry in the parade."

Two counties away, Winner's Labor Day parade will also incorporate walkers, according to an advertise- ment in the Winner Advocate. The ad states candy will not be thrown from floats.

Frei and the rest of the Wagner committee are hopeful these restrictions will help keep spectators safe and the parade under control. As horses become less a part of daily life for most people, he said it's a treat to have horses and other animals in the Labor Day and other parades.

The idea of walkers and checking animal equipment came quickly to the committee after the 2010 incident. Prior to the 2010 parade, many committee members attended Riverboat Days in Yankton and saw the parade included walkers, but didn't have time to implement the idea, Frei said.

"I think our incident could have been prevented with the inspection of the equipment," Frei said.

At last year's parade, a dog spooked a team of mules, causing them to rampage through the parade route. At least one spectator noticed a mule's bridle came loose and was dragging on the ground. The mules kept kicking the bridle as they ran.

Of the three people injured in the incident, two were treated for minor injuries and one was hospitalized. The names of the victims were not publicly released at the time.

Rep. Frank Kloucek, DScotland, announced he would introduce legislation after last year's incident. Rather than introduce a proposed law, he introduced resolution encouraging parade officials to include outriders -- extra horses and riders to monitor animals on parade routes. The resolution was not approved by the Legislature.

More recently, he's been working with interested parties and speaking with various parade committees to get a consensus on what could be done legislatively.

When told Wagner's parade committee implemented walkers, he said they will not prevent animals from going wild.

"Keeping children at bay is fine and dandy, but runaway horses can go anywhere," Kloucek said. "It's a good step keeping children away from parade entries, but as for horses, it won't do much."

However, he said having someone check over the animal equipment prior to parades is a move in the right direction.

Wagner's Labor Day parade starts at 10 a.m. Monday.