MIDDLETOWN, Del. (WTXF) - A long-standing New Year's Day tradition is under fire after pictures of a parade float, showing a "border detention center," circulated on social media.
The post, which was shared nearly 3,000 times, showed pictures taken from the annual Hummers Day parade in Middletown.
The controversial float in question has a sign that says "Border Detention Center" with a nearly naked adult in a cage and a child in a cowboy hat in another cage.
"Hummers parade in good ole Middletown Delaware. This is what these people participating and laughing think is funny. Dehumanizing others and wearing racist stereotype costumes. Check out the "kid" in the cage. So funny right? Disgusting! Share!" the post read.
"I've been there in the past and no problems but to hear that I'm kind of happy I wasn't there, because I would've been pretty upset with that one," says Thomas Izzo, of Middletown. "There's a lot of diversity in Middletown, so for people to think that way it's, I don't know, the whole thing disgusts me."
However, participants of the parade, which started decades ago, say it always surrounds political satire, and highlights all of the big topics of the year--no matter how sensitive or tragic.
Chuck Sullivan, a longtime participant and owner of Sully's Irish Pub, says previous parades poked fun at the Jerry Sandusky scandal at Penn State and Tiger Woods' arrest.
"If you've got thin skin don't come to the Hummer's," Sullivan says. "One year there was references to Whitney Houston passing away which was you know horrible, but the way it was presented, there was a piece of humor in it if you have an open mind."
Sullivan says there are no permits to put on the parade. If someone wants to be involved, they simply show up.
"There are no meetings, no organization, no group, this is just people enjoying themselves," he says. "Nothing is off limits."
State Senator Bryan Townsend, who also saw the pictures circulating on social media, says political satire has always been a challenge in the United States.
While that doesn't make it wrong, he says, it shouldn't involve children.
"I would hate for a good-natured parade to go by the wayside, but I also think it's one thing to focus on making fun of adults, it's another thing to make fun of situations involving children, some of whom are dying," he says. "I think we need to find that balance."
The mayor could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.
Fox 29 asked one of the main organizers of the parade for comment and he said "no thank you."
David Carter of New Castle County, who often makes the New Year's Day trip to catch the parade, fears that the parade will eventually end to be more politically correct.
"That would make make it easier just to sweep the issues that get highlighted each year under the carpet. That would be bad for democracy,
which is not always pretty and not always polite," he said in an e-mail to Fox 29. "Policy research has shown that exposure to political satire elicits negative emotions, which in turn mobilizes political participation."