It was all sweetness – and fun – at July 4th parade in Austintown

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The Hillary Victory Fund, a joint fundraising committee to raise money for Clinton’s presidential bid and state parties, sent an email recently asking for contributions to help Democrats in close races for the U.S. Senate.

There were eight candidates listed from “the latest Senate polls from close races around the country” in the email. Half of the candidates are trailing in the polls listed, but only by 1 or 2 percentage points.

Ex-Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland, a Democrat in a statistical dead heat in several polls with incumbent Sen. Rob Portman, a Republican, didn’t make the list.

If it’s an error of omission, that’s unforgivable as officials with the fund – consisting of those from Hillary for America, the Democratic National Committee and the Democratic parties in 37 states, including Ohio – should be well aware of how close the race is for the Senate in Ohio, and how badly Strickland’s campaign needs money.

It’s been three years since I last wrote an entire column on my favorite annual political event – the Austintown Fourth of July Parade.

There are those who love my parade columns and those who think it’s a waste of space. To those who don’t like it, you can stop reading now.

My family has gone to the parade since we moved here in 1995, but my daughters aren’t little kids anymore. They’re now 22 and 19, and for the second-straight year, it was just me and my wife at the parade, though my youngest visited. Even if my daughters joined us, they’re too old to fight the little kids for street candy without getting strange looks – and I have an unhealthy obsession with candy.

What’s a parade without a ton of candy? Still fun, but this was likely my last parade.

If so, I went out with a bang.

Before the parade, I had a couple of experiences with what politicians do to prepare for parades.

A well-placed source told me that there was a wooden pallet at Sam’s Club in Boardman with about 20 large containers of gum with the name Scott Hunter, a Mahoning County Court judge, on it. I didn’t see the judge at the Austintown parade, but I’m sure he put the candy to good use.

Also the day before July 4, the woman in front of me at the checkout line at Ollie’s Bargain Outlet in Niles was the mother of Trumbull County Commissioner Mauro Cantalamessa. She was buying more than $100 worth of candy – some pretty good stuff like Laffy Taffy – for the Howland parade because the amount of candy purchased for a previous parade had left her son with very little left to throw.

As for the Austintown parade, the township trustees, particularly Jim Davis, enjoy throwing candy at me.

I saw Davis three days before the parade, and he warned me to “wear a helmet.”

In previous years, the trustees have thrown hundreds of mini-Tootsie Rolls at me, usually hitting members of my family and complete strangers many more times than me.

Three years ago, Davis jumped off the trustees’ vehicle and tried to dump a large bag of mini-Tootsie Rolls on my head. I reached up, snatched the bag out of his hands before he could do anything. I kept the candy.

This time, the trustees had a better plan. I don’t make it a secret where I stand during the parade.

Trustee Richard Stauffer, sitting in the vehicle, spotted me. Rather than throw candy or wave hello, he pointed at me.

It was a set-up.

The next thing I saw was Davis running toward me from the right with a giant bucket holding at least 1,000 mini-Tootsie Rolls, likely more.

I had a choice to make: either run or get the contents of the bucket dumped on my head. I stood there not realizing how long it would take for all of the candy to drop.

When Davis was done, I had Tootsie Rolls in my hair and a hill of them at my feet.

The look on the faces of the people near me was one of “what did I just see?”

Even the kids, who grab candy as soon as it hits the street, paused for a moment.

After a good laugh, it was time to pick the candy off the ground. Kids grabbed a bunch as did my wife and I, but there were so many of them. We spent about 15 minutes reaching down and putting the candy into bags. We all gave up, leaving about 150 to 200 of them to melt in the sun because we were tired of bending down.

With this being a big election year, there were a lot of candidates in the parade.

Thankfully it wasn’t too hot because there are few things that can kill a good parade/street candy buzz than shaking hands with a sweaty politician.

State Rep. Michele Lepore-Hagan of Youngstown, D-58th, gave me a bag full of very choice candy.

I immediately noticed that it was unusually heavy. I thought I hit the jackpot.

In with the candy was a note that read, in part: “I included some of the press releases you didn’t get a chance to read this past two years.”

She wasn’t kidding. There was a nearly 2-inch-thick stack of press releases from her in with the candy.

Mahoning County Commissioner Carol Rimedio-Righetti threw about three pieces of gum at me from close range in rapid fire before I could answer her question: “Do you want some candy?”

Typically, there aren’t a lot of Republicans marching in the Austintown parade. That’s because there aren’t a lot of elected Republicans in the county, and the party has struggled in previous years to find candidates for the various positions on the ballot.

That’s not the case this year.

Plenty of Republican candidates participated in the parade.

Among them was Christine Lucarell Oliver, a county treasurer candidate, who filled a toy dump truck with candy for me with “dump inefficiency” on strips of medical tape placed on the two sides of the toy. The wheels work on the toy, but it doesn’t dump. That’s fine as I was only interested in the candy.

One of the most-fascinating moments of the parade, which is finished in less than an hour, is the aftermath. Raccoon Road looks like a candy war zone with wrappers and crushed candy all over the street. I am still amazed how the township street department is able to clean up the mess by the next day.

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