BELLOWS FALLS — When members of the Bellows Falls Union High School football team returned home two weeks ago to a impromptu celebration parade, they stayed in their school bus.
The team, which went undefeated in the 2021 season and won the state Division II championship over Mount Anthony Union High School on Nov. 13, was greeted with a posse of a dozen fire trucks from surrounding communities, lights flashing and horns blaring.
But unlike in years past, the football champions stayed in the school bus and didn’t get to ride on top of the fire trucks, which had happened during other earlier parades.
Municipal Manager Scott Pickup told the Village Board of Trustees Tuesday night that he wasn’t very popular with some parents, who had approached him about the fire truck parade.
But Pickup said he had seen videos of previous parades, and vetoed any kids on the fire trucks this time.
“It’s a different time,” Pickup said.
The trustees agreed, and said the kids could safely stay in their school bus. Village President Deborah Wright said it was a “litigious” time. It’s been a couple of years since celebrating high school kids have ridden on the fire trucks, she said, because of liability issues raised by the Bellows Falls Union High School Board.
In previous years, players rode on top of the fire trucks, and even on the top of the ladder truck, Trustee Wade Masure said.
The issue came up after Wright said the Village Ordinance Committee had recommended an increase in the “open air permit” fee from $20 to $100, to cover the village’s costs of both processing and supervising any event.
And while the four trustees present agreed the fee should increase, a lengthy discussion started after Masure asked about certificates of insurance for such events.
The Bellows Falls Alumni Association, which holds the largest parade in the village annually, provides such a certificate of insurance, Masure said.
But other trustees said they were concerned about any requirement that could put a damper on an event such as the football championship parade.
Trustee James “Jiggs” McAuliffe said he didn’t think such “one-off” events should be required to get insurance. Such a requirement, he said, would likely “put an end” to it.
McAuliffe, who is also a member of the Rockingham School Board, said he went to the parade. “It was quite something,” he said, noting the school bus carrying the team was surrounded by the fire trucks and the players were screaming out the windows.
Masure, who works for the Vermont League of Cities and Towns, which is the village’s main insurance carrier, said the village could give a waiver for such events as the football parade, while still requiring it for others.
Wright, who is also on the village’s ordinance committee, said the open air/parade permit would be rewritten to include the higher fee, but include insurance liability flexibility for such events as the football championship parade.