Indiana 9/11 parade float featuring Twin Towers and billowing smoke sparks backlash  

A September 11 tribute parade float in Indiana featuring a depiction of the twin towers along with billowing smoke clouds sparked backlash online from critics who called it tasteless and disrespectful.

The float was featured in the 40th Annual Valparaiso Popcorn Festival Saturday, which this year fell on the 20th anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks. 

Sponsored by the Valparaiso Republican Committee, the float immediately drew criticism when it was unveiled a day prior to the parade, with the group limiting who could comment on their Facebook page’s posts and hiding comments critical of the display.  

‘Beyond tasteless, even without the fog machine going,’ wrote Chicago resident Verne Papka in the lone comment to escape the purge. 

By Monday afternoon the committee’s page had been taken down altogether. 

An Indiana 9/11 parade float depicting the Twin Towers along with flames and billowing smoke was blasted as 'tasteless'

An Indiana 9/11 parade float depicting the Twin Towers along with flames and billowing smoke was blasted as 'tasteless'

An Indiana 9/11 parade float depicting the Twin Towers along with flames and billowing smoke was blasted as ‘tasteless’ 

A float was commissioned by the Valparaiso Republican Committee for the 40th Annual Popcorn Festival in Valparaiso

A float was commissioned by the Valparaiso Republican Committee for the 40th Annual Popcorn Festival in Valparaiso

A float was commissioned by the Valparaiso Republican Committee for the 40th Annual Popcorn Festival in Valparaiso








‘Did you really play the goodbye phone message recordings of the survivors?? Who thought that was a good idea??’

Along with two grey rectangular structures intended to represent the World Trade Center Twin Towers, holes were painted on the sides with red plastic streamers intended to represent the flames where American Airlines flights 11 and 175 flew into the buildings. 

Additionally a wall featuring the names of the 2,977 people killed in the attacks on the towers and the Pentagon hung between the towers, and in front were portraits of 13 local servicemembers killed in the subsequent War on Terror. 

While it is not clear which individuals from the committee worked on the float, on the Monday before the parade the Porter County Republican Party put out a call on Facebook for volunteers to lend a hand. 

‘We NEED YOU! How many Porter County Republicans will be helping with our float and or walking in the popcorn parade?!’ the party wrote.

‘We need YOU! We will be working on the float all day Tuesday and Thursday in Valpo! We NEED you.’

In footage of the parade, some bystanders can be heard expressing their surprise as the float as it passed by.

Many on social media regarded the float as tasteless and  disrespectful in the way it depicted the damaged towers

Many on social media regarded the float as tasteless and  disrespectful in the way it depicted the damaged towers

Many on social media regarded the float as tasteless and  disrespectful in the way it depicted the damaged towers 

‘That’s a little f***ked up,’ a paradegoer can be heard saying in one video posted to YouTube by NWI.com. ‘What the?’

Reaction in the comments for the video were similar.

‘That was the most disrespectful float, out of the whole parade,’ replied one. ‘How that was allowed as a memorial to the 9/11 victims is complete insanity.’

‘What in the hell were the Porter County Republicans thinking? This video made me nauseous,’ another wrote.

‘This is embarrassing!’ another replied. 

Backlash to the float forced Valparaiso GOP to limit comments on its Facebook page and remove those critical of the float

Backlash to the float forced Valparaiso GOP to limit comments on its Facebook page and remove those critical of the float

Backlash to the float forced Valparaiso GOP to limit comments on its Facebook page and remove those critical of the float 

The Popcorn Festival is held each year in downtown Valparaiso, and is a tribute to city native Orville Redenbacher

The Popcorn Festival is held each year in downtown Valparaiso, and is a tribute to city native Orville Redenbacher

The Popcorn Festival is held each year in downtown Valparaiso, and is a tribute to city native Orville Redenbacher

‘This is just…wow,’ commented another.

The Valparaiso Republicans have so far not responded to the backlash, but in video of the float posted to the group’s Facebook, they commented: 

‘We worked so hard to show our love ,respect, our sorrow and respect to all the 9/11 victims, the soldiers who died in Afghanistan and our first responders. #neverforget #america’

Valparaiso Republican group that created the float has not responded to the backlash

Valparaiso Republican group that created the float has not responded to the backlash

Valparaiso Republican group that created the float has not responded to the backlash  

The Valparaiso Popcorn Festival began in 1979 as a tribute to Valparaiso native Orville Redenbacher of popcorn fame. 

It is scheduled annually on the first Saturday after Labor Day and held in the downtown area of the city. 

In addition to the parade, it typically features a number of events for children and and adults alike, and float makers are encouraged to incorporate popcorn in their design.

A popcorn festival is also held in Brazil, Indiana, where Redenbacher was born.

The festival was canceled in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic. 

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