This year’s Christmas parade will not have a jail float.
The Clayton Chamber of Commerce has decided to not allow DNA Bail Bonds to be in the parade.
The bail-bonds business, based in Smithfield, has been a parade spectacle in years past, with one of the most eye-catching floats.
Last year, four young women dressed in black-and-white-striped inmate costumes walked in front of the float, waving and smiling in Santa hats while chained together by larger-than-life handcuffs. A fake police officer escorted them.
“I told them that we feel that is not in the Christmas spirit,” said Chamber of Commerce President Jim Godfrey.
Video from last year’s parade shows the neon-green DNA Bail Bonds van pulling a float with more people dressed in inmate costumes. One of the inmates is sitting on a pretend toilet in a cell, a roll of toilet paper trailing behind the float.
Husband and wife Nick and Dawn Daniels own DNA Bail Bonds. They feel the chamber has discriminated against their business by not allowing them in the parade.
“It’s not fair that they won’t allow us to participate,” Dawn Daniels said.
This would have been DNA’s fourth year in the parade. In its first year, DNA won best float.
The chamber board decided it was inappropriate to have people wearing shackles and to have toilet paper dragging on the ground.
“I think it’s ironic that if the community thinks our jail is so negative, then why do so many people want to borrow our jail?” Daniels said.
Businesses, charities and libraries have borrowed the float’s jail cell to raise money for various causes. Among the beneficiaries, according to Daniels: the Children’s Miracle Network, the American Red Cross and Easter Seals.
Godfrey said the chamber tried to work with DNA.
“I tried to reach a compromise I thought was fair and allow them in the parade but asked them to not have people walking in front of the float wearing shackles and chains,” he said.
But that discussion erupted into a heated argument, and the chamber barred DNA from the parade.
“You can’t have something that doesn’t depict the holiday season in the parade,” Godfrey said.
He noted that the chamber asks bands to play Christmas music and asks entries to decorate their floats for Christmas. DNA didn’t do that.
The chamber refunded DNA its $145 entry fee.
This year’s Christmas Parade will step off at 3 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 14. The route runs from Smith Street to Robertson Street.