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Meanwhile, the float-making faithful are sticking to their guns, prepared to march no matter what.Unanswered, though, is the central question that will likely determine the parade’s fate: In an era that somehow includes both the rise of PC culture and a president who brags about groping women, should we impugn this gaggle of equal-opportunity offenders stomping down the street as nothing more than a parade of trolls?The float was a hit with the parade committee, which awarded one of the teams second place in the annual competition for best float.Gloucester, meanwhile, was understandably less thrilled, its mayor reportedly “deeply offended.” Stirring up trouble was nothing new for the Horribles Parade, but in the past, controversies had stayed local and usually blew over quickly.Then last year, amid the divisive election season, controversy erupted once again.This time, critics singled out several floats, including one of Donald Trump—and his great big wall—as well as those poking fun at Hillary Clinton, transgender bathroom laws, and Black Lives Matter.“It’s political satire,” says Hackett, a mailman with a deep Boston brogue. It’s just something you’re born into here.” Jimmy Dunn, a Beverly-bred standup comedian, acknowledges that “malice” is a key ingredient in many of the floats, but says it’s a misconception that they’re the work of rich residents mocking the less fortunate.“The people who make these floats,” says Dunn, himself the son of a house painter, “are blue-collar, and the targets are usually the rich guy.” No target ever appears to be off-limits.

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Other marchers sported fake baby bumps, brandished signs declaring the Gloucester teens “pregnant tramps,” and pelted bystanders with candy and condoms.But to a few folks in Beverly Farms, a mere 10 miles away, it was comedy gold.“The Farms,” as residents call the neighborhood, is the wealthier, oceanfront side of the tracks in the city of Beverly, known for titans of industry whose mansions overlook Great Misery Island in Salem Sound.In the other: the pro-Horribles, fighting not just for their annual right to drunkenly craft floats bearing signs with lewd rhymes, but also to keep the nanny-staters from censoring a tradition dating back generations—one that has always celebrated satire and freedom of expression, no matter how crude, over delicate sensibilities and hurt feelings.Ever the diplomat, then-Beverly Mayor Bill Scanlon wanted to believe that the Horribles Parade would clean up its act, speculating publicly “it will probably take care of itself.” And for a few years, it did.

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