Parade Etiquette

There’s almost nothing better than a small town parade! There’s almost nothing worse than a small town parade experience gone awry because of poor parade etiquette.

Hey, I get it. We don’t go to parades every other weekend! Since it’s a once or twice a year adventure, here’s an opportunity to brush up on your manners so everyone has an enjoyable time!

Don’t Infringe.

Alright, straight talk – there are some people who have children who wake them up at an “oh my goodness” hour on a parade day asking “Can we go yet?!” These are the people who typically schlep all the stuff to the side of the road, with a pop up tent, and wait along the parade route for hours prior to the start of the parade. They’ve typically examined the map of the parade route, calculated the sun’s trajectory against the height of surrounding buildings, and have prepped for this event with the intensity of a general going into battle.

They take their parade watching seriously. Their kids take their once-a-year-shot-at-all-you-can-eat-candy very seriously.

Do not mess with these people.

You are welcome to arrive at a parade at any time you choose. BUT… if you have not exhibited the same level of commitment to the process with your own pop up tent, chairs, temporary housing complex, don’t just arrive as the parade begins, identify one of the crazy people’s set up and start edging into the fringe of the parade compound hoping no one will notice.

They will notice. They will care. They will shoot side eyes at you as you stand in the shade. Depending on the crowd there might also be fisticuffs.

There is a way to create a win-win situation here! You know what makes all things right in the world? ASK THE CRAZY POP UP TENT PEOPLE FOR PERMISSION. Just strike up a conversation and ask if it’s ok if you share in their shady bounty. If they say yes, you’re golden. If they say no… then it’s a sign you need to move along and the air is clear. All is good.

Control the Children.

This might seem like something that should go without stating, but a parade is a procession. That means that there is movement to and fro. That’s the nature of the parade. You can see that it’s a parade because of this movement.

If your children are in the middle of the street, or crowding into the roadway in a sugar-induced, sticky-fingered frenzy, the parade cannot go on.

There is no movement to and fro. There is no parade.

The children must be controlled and managed. They may not run into the roadway or they impede the parade and may become flattened pancakes. That would make everyone sad because it is not the way that a parade is supposed to be. No smooshed children should be at a parade. They should be along the side of the road, eagerly anticipating the next entry and what priceless treats are to come.

Don’t Steal the Candy.

I’m writing the rule of the parade: the kids get first dibs at the candy. Adults, yes, you may have candy too if there are extras, but you may not trample a child in order to grab that precious Tootsie Roll. The small box of Dots is not worth the bitter tears of a small human.

Here’s the rule of thumb: If you are old enough to purchase and consume your own choice of candy on any other day of the year… you are considered an adult and must stop it. You may not take the opportunity for candy away from the small people who have no money and no means of even getting to a store to purchase candy on their own if they had it.

The candy grabbing must be reserved for the small ones who know that getting candy thrown at them from a bucket loader is the secret ingredient to literally the best day of their life.

Wear Clothes.

While I accept that there are some parades in the country that tend to be clothing optional, the typical small town parade does not qualify. The majority of hometown parades are considered family friendly.

With this in mind, when you attend the parade, consider wearing clothing that covers all of the critical points of privacy on a human body. Consider wearing clothing appropriate for 9am in small town America, rather than the knocker locker downtown.

Parents deal with uncomfortable things on a daily basis because kids are great tools for building character. Yet being loudly asked, with pointing, why someone’s hooha is covered in hair in the middle of a parade crowd is high on the list of “never want to repeat” “I’m sinking through the ground with my face on fire” events. This whole, terrible experience could have been solved by the fellow parade-goer wearing underwear in public… as well as wearing shorts that cover just a tad more. (Always remember children are small. They look up all the time. They naturally have questions about what they see. That’s all I am going to say about that.)

Guard your Conversation.

Many parades allow politicians to participate in the parade. Many times folks from different interest groups will offer a float for the parade. You probably won’t like every entry in the parade.

But please, please, guard your conversation about what you’re watching go by. Listening to a profanity-laced, racist, homophobic, etc. rant about a the political ideology of the people with a passing at a volume loud enough to carry in 20 feet in either direction is not appropriate parade etiquette.

Particularly at a parade, where people are crammed in tightly enough to swap deodorant, remember what your mama says: “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”

Clean Up After Yourself.

Looking at the street after a parade can be like seeing the chaos of feathers after a fox gets in a chicken coop.

I’m not sure why some feel it’s ok to walk away from the glut of trash that accumulates at a parade? Just in case you were wondering about this: It’s not ok to leave your trash behind. Treat your area with respect.

Before you leave with your hands full of your new snacks, beads, and logo cups… stop for a moment and deposit the empty Otter Pops and candy wrappers from your area.

Flag Etiquette

Finally, if you’re at a 4th of July parade, you’ll quickly discover that there are American flags on the move non-stop! Are you supposed to hop up and down with your hand over your heart each time? What is the rule for this?

According to the AMERICAN FLAGS website,

“At the moment the flag passes in a parade or procession, all persons should show respect by standing at attention facing the flag with their right hand over their hearts. Military personnel or veterans should face the flag and render their formal salute. During a parade it is appropriate to salute only the first US Flag.”

While it’s ok for the ladies, men and boys should remove their hats, too.

Now that we’ve got this all covered, enjoy your festivities, and may the one with the most candy and no back pain from the pop up tent win!

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