Over 400 Hillsdale County residents lined North Howell Street last Friday evening for the annual Hillsdale Patriots Parade, despite the recent controversy surrounding freedom to assemble under Governor Whitmer’s executive orders during the coronavirus pandemic. Seven local candidates walked in the parade to show their support for the patriotic tradition and to speak with local residents prior to the upcoming August 4 primary elections.
Daren Wiseley, a candidate to represent the District 58 in Michigan’s state house, said he came to the parade because “this is what America is about.”
“If we can’t celebrate freedom in America then what are we?” Wiseley said.
When asked about his supporters who attended the event, Wiseley said, “They’re not scared of Whitmer. They’re proud to be out here doing this, celebrating freedom.”
Another candidate for state representative Andy Welden also attended the parade.
“Independence Day is our celebration of independence, that’s what it’s about,” Welden said. “I respect those who don’t want to come. That’s their right too. That’s their independence.”
Despite rumors prior to the parade that there would be resistance to it from the local police, Hillsdale Mayor Adam Stockford, also campaigning for state representative in District 58, said that was “absolutely not true.”
“I met with the police chief two weeks ago and he expressed no apprehensions at all to me. He helped us design the parade route,” Stockford added. “I talked personally to some of the police officers on the force. They said there was no talk within the department of anyone being upset about the parade.”
“This is a widely-supported thing in the community,” Stockford added.
Andrew Fink, also campaigning to represent District 58 in the Michigan State House, did not attend the parade.
“Our local law enforcement officers have had little time to prepare to manage crowds of an unknown number for the American Patriots Parade tomorrow,” Fink wrote in a Facebook post on July 2 at 9 p.m. “Additionally, state-level law enforcement authorities have put out guidance that a large public event violates state law, which puts our local police in an impossible situation trying to manage an event that is sanctioned at the local level but prohibited at the state level. For this reason Team Fink is not participating in the parade, even though it’s right down the street from our home in downtown Hillsdale.”
Candidate for Hillsdale County Sheriff Jon Rutan represented his campaign in Friday’s parade.
When asked about the controversy surrounding public gatherings and Whitmer’s order, Rutan responded that there’s risk in every part of life.
“Tell me when there isn’t a situation that’s dangerous,” Rutan said. “There are going to be dangers that are always going to face America. Are we going to whither at every one? Or are true patriots going to stand up for what true liberty is all about?”
Rutan’s campaign manager Jon Smith said Rutan helped organize this year’s Patriots Parade, as well as a Hillsdale County Memorial Day event earlier this year.
“Nobody was doing a memorial service, but he’s a veteran, and a really honorable dude,” Smith said. “Regardless of campaigns, this stuff is more important.”
Smith, who is currently running for county commissioner in Hillsdale, also walked in the parade, representing the local Republican party. Aaron Siegel, another candidate for Hillsdale county commissioner, and Brendan Sanger, a candidate for district court judge, walked in the parade as well.
The parade included several Hillsdale Fire Department fire trucks and local farmers riding their tractors. Children riding the parade floats distributed candy and bottled water to those camped out along the sidewalk. While police officers facilitating the event wore masks, very few members of the audience could be seen wearing masks or social distancing.