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EDITORIAL: At this year's parade, look for family-friendly zones

Many of the downtown bars and eating establishments will be allowing alcoholic beverages in front of their buildings on March 17.

For one hour prior to the annual St. Patrick's Day Parade in New Richmond until one hour after the parade, the city will allow people to drink in front of certain designated businesses.

It's not a completely new concept. St. Patrick's Day revelers have been free to consume alcohol in front of McCabe's Shamrock Club, which sponsors the annual parade, for years.

This year, however, alcohol will be welcomed along Knowles Avenue for the first time. It will be interesting to see how it goes.

The establishments that have permission to use the main street sidewalks are required to designate a "drinking area" so that police officers can determine if city ordinances are being followed. Those people drinking alcohol will be required to stay within those designated areas.

According to city rules, a portion of the sidewalk in front of each business will need to remain open so that pedestrians can still pass by safely. Depending on the size of the crowd that day, this requirement may be difficult to police.

We would agree with New Richmond City Council member Jane Hansen who has objected to the expansion of alcohol zones on parade day, especially as it relates to the community's main street. If parade goers can't watch the parade without a beer in their hands, they can always watch the action through the window from inside a bar or restaurant.

There would be plenty of time for St. Patrick's Day celebrants to drink to their heart's content following the one-hour parade. The annual community celebration should instead remain a family-friendly gathering that does not openly promote public alcohol consumption on a Sunday afternoon - or any afternoon for that matter.

Barring a change of heart by city officials, families can plan ahead if they'd rather not be witness to main street drinking.

As parade day approaches, families might want to stake out a spot along the route that is a safe distance from the designated drinking zones.

There are plenty of areas along the route where parade antics can be enjoyed without the visual reminder that this is Wisconsin, where alcohol use is too often openly promoted rather than openly discouraged.