If you only followed social media, and never went downtown or participated in any events, you might think Olive Hill was full of nothing but folks yelling at each other over ridiculous non-issues all day.
A couple of weeks back it was the internet rumor mill getting bent out of shape over plans to move the caboose from Hop Brown Park down to an area in front of the old train depot. Those plans, and the misinformation surrounding them, prompted the Olive Hill Welcome Center to take to social media and explain the decision. This included informing those outraged on behalf of the Brown family that not only were they aware of the planned move, but they supported it.
Just as that tempest was dying down, social media erupted again over safety measures that organizers of the Homecoming Parade were asking parade participants to consider.
Throwing candy from parade floats has been a long tradition in parades across the country, but there are issues with that. A lot of that candy doesn’t quite make it to the children on the sidewalks, prompting kids to run into the street to gather it up.
Candy that doesn’t get snatched before the next vehicle comes down the route has a chance of being crushed under tires before anyone can get to it.
But it’s the kids running into the street to collect the candy that is the biggest cause for concern.
While parade traffic is generally fairly slow, there is always the possibility of an accident – particularly when children dart into the street unexpectedly while traffic is on the move.
There haven’t been any serious accidents resulting from children darting after candy yet, but there have been some close calls.
To help keep things safe the Homecoming committee asked parade participants if they would consider, instead of tossing candy from their floats, having people walking alongside the floats hand out or toss candy into the crowd.
This action would keep kids out of the street, and get more of the candy onto the sidewalk where it could be collected rather than going to waste and contributing to the city’s litter.
It honestly had the potential to be a win for organizers, parents, kids, and parade participants.
Then the internet got involved.
Folks began complaining about ruining tradition. They complained that it would ruin the experience for kids. They claimed it would ruin the experience for folks on the floats. They claimed that without candy being thrown directly from the floats the parade simply wouldn’t be any fun.
The thing about the nay-sayers, though, is that none of them were directly involved in the parade.
Not one of the people complaining appeared to be anyone registered to put a float or a vehicle in the parade.
They weren’t any of the organizers who volunteer their time plan, schedule, and put these events together.
When you looked closely, some of the loudest voices weren’t even Olive Hill residents. Some even said so openly, noting they had left the area years ago while either lamenting the perceived loss of tradition or seemingly looking for any opportunity to lash out and attack a town they hadn’t lived in for years.
Others seemed genuinely puzzled by it all, and were simply reiterating misinformation that had been shared with them.
Still others took it as an opportunity for personal attacks against individual people or community groups they dislike, engaging in what-aboutism completely unrelated to the candy issue.
Perhaps worst of all were the outsiders – folks completely unrelated in any way at all to the town or the issue – who picked up on the contrived controversy through social media and jumped on the opportunity to poke fun of the region and the people.
This kind of bullying is nothing new, and bullying is exactly what it is – another group, from another state, trying to make themselves feel better by making fun of and putting down the simple country rubes who, as they misrepresented it, were upset they couldn’t pelt kids with candy.
That was the progression; from safety request, to claims of ruining the parade, to what about these other folks, and, finally, look at these folks mad they can’t bean kids in the head with confectionary projectiles.
It’s ludicrous. It’s embarrassing. And it detracts from the good work that our volunteers do to make Olive Hill and Grayson and all of Carter County a place worth raising our families.
So, when you see this kind of rampant negativity, you might try to gently correct it. You might try to put it in context.
But we’d encourage you not to spend too much time arguing about it. Point out the truth, say thanks to the volunteers, and then close your Facebook or Twitter app.
Instead of dwelling on that negativity, go outside and look at the good work the Trail Town folks are doing around the lake. Visit the Depot and look at the wonderful displays they’ve created to honor Tom T. Hall and all our local notables. Go up to the library, or to a show or class at the Olive Hill Center for Arts & Education. Take a drive to Grayson for a Final Friday event at the Grayson Gallery.
And when you see something you like, find out who volunteers are, and tell them thanks. I promise you, it will mean the world to them.