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Missoula's parade plight, and Montana's hamburger humbug

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Has anyone noticed that it’s increasingly difficult to have a good parade these days? First there was an ordinance in city council calling for expanded liability coverage for participants, a reduction in hours for block parties and other street events, and a candy-throwing ban drafted to prevent our little angels—the children! Won’t anyone think of the children?—from being showered with injurious salvos of sweetmeats and pennywhistles. What’s next, enforced seatbelt and catalytic converter laws on the miniature Shriner cars?

To further harsh the collective mellow, the local barrier-and-lighting concern that has traditionally provided the equipment and manpower to block off intersections along the traditional Higgins parade route has now backed out of the parade game entirely. After numerous run-ins with surly motorists during the Saint Patrick’s Day parade, Montana Flasher (dying for a T-shirt!) declined to contract their services for the upcoming WildWalk parade, staged in conjunction with the International Wildlife Film Festival.

“The companies that have contracted to do parades don’t enjoy it very much,” says one IWFF staffer, noting that Flasher’s pullout left the non-profit with little choice but to go with a bid from a competing contractor that came in at roughly twice what the IWFF had previously paid for equipment and security.

“What are we supposed to do? We’re a nonprofit,” says another IWFF worker, “We don’t have a lot of money.”

To volunteer at the WildWalk parade on April 15, call the IWFF at 728-9380.

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We understand that opportunism is the driving force behind any political campaign, but even the hard-nosed cynics of our Media Watch Department were left a little befuddled by the latest salvo in Montana’s Campaign 2000. Specifically, we’re thinking of two weeks ago, when Missoula law prof and arch-conservative gubernatorial candidate Rob Natelson decried, of all things, the world’s largest hamburger.

At issue was a proposed $1,000 grant to fund an event held last Labor Day in wee Saco, Mont., something of a town-wide hamburger-raising, in order to promote Montana ranching and get us into The Guinness Book of World Records to boot. The burger-fry went off without a hitch—weighing in at a whopping 6,040 pounds—but, as it turns out, the money was blocked by a lawsuit over how agricultural grants are funded. Now politicos have returned to the ag-grant issue, hence Natelson’s renewed outrage. “This is the kind of ‘pork’—uh—‘beef’ that bureaucracies come up with when they get to spend your tax money,” he said in his statement.

“What’s the beef?” our pundits wondered. After all, it’s just a cook-out. So we thought we’d talk to the man behind the burger. “It was all advertising,” said Roger Ereaux of Saco, who helped organize the Guinness-sized burger. “You know, to promote beef. I suppose a thousand dollars is breaking the state of Montana. I’d like to see what they’d do with a thousand bucks.” As for the burning controversy over the proposed dough, Ereaux had never heard of Rob Natelson, let alone his anti-burger statement. “I’ve never heard of the gentleman,” Ereaux said, “but I don’t think he’s going to gain any popularity with this.”

As they say in the burger business, have it your way.

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