ANOKA, Minn. - It's not exactly the kind of attention the "Halloween Capitol of the World" welcomes this time of year.
This week, an Anoka organization founded to support LGBT youth raised a red flag -- fearing they were unfairly denied participation in the city's annual Halloween parade.
The group, Justin's Gift, had submitted their application for the parade well before the deadline. But days later, the group received a brief letter, indicating that the parade had reached its "maximum walking units."
"For them being denied, it's kind of like you better go ahead and head back into the closet," said Tammy Aaberg, whose own son committed suicide after Aaberg said he was bullied for being gay.
Aaberg and others waited for more explanation from the parade organizers. Receiving none, some of the parents started an online petition -- which had received nearly 1,400 signatures at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday.
In the meantime, KARE 11 obtained paperwork from Anoka officials that showed parade organizers submitted an application for a license for the parade on Wednesday. The Anoka Police Department also told KARE 11 that there is no city ordinance requiring a parade participation limit.
But parade organizers did respond Wednesday evening, saying the whole matter was strictly due to numbers.
"Based on our past experiences with our parade, we have always had a time restriction with the city," said Jeremy McFarland with Anoka Halloween.
He continued: "With a large volume of marching bands this year, we had to take this into consideration when processing applications in order to meet the time limit. Every year, our parade committee sends out denial, and this year we had a total of 28 various groups denied participation in our parade. Past parade size is 180 units with varying marching band participation from year to year -- and the city monitors our three hour time limit."
Organizers with Justin's Gift say they welcomed McFarland's response. They simply wished it had come a bit earlier, especially given recent challenges in the Anoka-Hennepin School District related to suicide and anti-gay bullying.
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