HARRISBURG, Pa. – Parade organizers apologized to a high school band after people in a predominantly white crowd threw rocks at the students and insulted them with rude comments and racial epithets.
Officials with the Manheim Farm Show parade visited marching band members from William Penn Senior High in York on Wednesday to say they were embarrassed and hoped the students would return for next year's event.
Seth Kensinger, vice president of the farm show, said the organization was appalled at how the students were abused at last week's parade.
"We went over to apologize because that's not how you treat people," said Kensinger, who did not witness the encounter.
The band consists of white, black and Latino students. York City School District spokesman Jonathan Heintzman said Thursday that people in the crowd hit some of the students with small rocks and sprayed them with soda, directed derogatory comments to girls and used racial epithets. He said he was unsure exactly what was said but that no one was hurt.
It was the band's fourth year participating in the parade in neighboring Lancaster County, and Heintzman said no decision has been made on whether to go back next year.
"The few students and staff that I talked with, basically, had said they don't hold any ill will to the organizers of the parade," Heintzman said. "They can't control the crowd that attended their event."
York City School District Acting Superintendent Eric Holmes told the York Daily Record that the evening parade was poorly lit, so no one was able to identify the people who harassed the students.
"It's something we certainly never want our children to have to experience, but we're going to look at it as a learning opportunity," Holmes told the paper.
QueAujonea Wilson, a flute player, told the newspaper she saw an object fly past her. She called the situation "insane."
The Oct. 6 parade was part of Manheim's 57th annual farm show, which says it aims to "promote agriculture, crafts and competition in a friendly environment that encourages family values and cooperation." Event organizers tout a wholesome atmosphere that "creates the opportunity for neighbors to meet neighbors and old friends, which is something desperately needed in our society."
Manheim Borough Police Chief Barry Weidman said he did not witness the harassment but assumed the perpetrators were young people. His department had not received a complaint.
"We would have to have specifics," Weidman said. "Descriptions might be hard because some areas are dark. But if we had a location, possibly, along the parade route, things like that, there would be some avenues to check and see if we could get descriptions."