|Detail from Children's games by Pieter Breugel the Elder, 1560, Wikipedia|
In recent years, a children's pony ride concession, which was a long-standing attraction at one of our farmers' market, became targeted by people claiming the ponies were being treated cruelly. I have no opinion on pony rides myself, but the result of the activists' efforts were to shut down the pony ride by failing to renew its contract, and have the City ban any future pony rides at the market.
Back in 2007, the City's squirrel abatement program in the parks came under fire. Not because the City was killing squirrels - they already knew that wouldn't fly. But the abatement program called for chemical sterilization of squirrels. Activists protested, claiming such interference with the squirrels' reproductive rights was cruel.
This year, I spoke with a local school PTSA leader who wanted to know what permits might be required to do a fundraiser called Cowpatty Bingo, which involved cows doing what they do best. Later, I heard back from him that they'd abandoned their plans. Some of the moms were concerned that such an activity violated the cows' dignity.
So today, I received a call from far up the food chain, our department director. An outraged citizen had contacted her regarding a newspaper ad for a children's event put on by the local Jaycees in a City park. The event, titled "Frontier Days," will feature "a day of family fun! Wear your best Western wear! Tots to twelve years old! Face-painting, water balloons, and pony races!"
"I am very disappointed that the City is sponsoring an animal act in a City Park," read the email. "I was under the impression that there is an ordinance prohibiting animals in parks, except for dogs on leashes. The City recently banned the exhibition of exotic animals in P_____ Park and also ended the pony rides at the [redacted]Farmers' Market on Sundays.
As you know, many residents objected to the pony rides on ethical grounds. Now many more farmers' markets are eliminating pony rides from their activities. So, this announcement about having pony races at "Frontier Days" takes me by surprise.
Is it too late to cancel the pony races?"
Hence the urgent call from upstairs. Apparently, certain City Council members' phones were ringing, too. I was directed to get to the bottom of this.
It didn't take long. One phone call to the event organizer. "Oh," she said. "They're ponies on sticks. You know. Toys. Stuffed ones?"
"You mean hobby horses?" I asked.
"Oh, is that what they're called? Yeah. The kids are going to ride them around."
Another impending crisis averted.
I think someone's riding a hobby horse, but I'm not sure it's the kids in the park!