For this, as with most questions we deal with, the answer lies within the details. One detail about organizing a parade that’s particularly pertinent, for example, is the scope of the event. Are you getting the neighborhood kids together to have a spur-of-the-moment bike parade? Or have you been put in charge of the Rose Parade? The first requires little preparation, the second, a lot.
Parade Organization Tips
Let’s assume you intend to organize something in between those two extremes. Most likely, you have been put in charge of a parade by some civic or fraternal organization that sponsors a particular parade every year. They should already have a chairperson’s planning guide that collects the wisdom of past planners, organizing it into a step-by-step for you to follow. If there isn’t such a guide, it’s time for you to begin one for those who succeed you – the poor crumbs who couldn’t get out of doing this either.
Such a guide will set out goals (“25 units drawn from the local community”), jobs, materials needed, potential problems and suggested solutions, budgeting advice, and timelines and deadlines. The guide should be a dynamic document, with information added year-by-year. For instance, any alterations of usual processes should be noted along with the reasons for them, and suggestions should be made for future organizers to use. Such suggestions might come out of a post-mortem meeting following the parade.
It’s best to realize you’ve got to give yourself sufficient lead time (as a general rule, give yourself, at a minimum, as many months as it will take to obtain all the financing you’ll need); also realize that it’s better to err on the side of having too many people to help you rather than too few. You need a committee to handle the myriad aspects of a parade, from concept to clean-up. Make sure everyone has a particular job to do and is aware of the basics – the reason for the parade, its theme, the route, etc.
Before obtaining needed permits, have a budget prepared with an estimate of what everything is going to cost and a plan for how you’re going to get the financing. Town permits are needed because you’ll be using public streets, putting up barriers, and probably involving the local police in crowd and traffic control.
Have everyone and every unit that is going to march register. This way you can keep the parade to a reasonable length and keep it within the time constraints you’ll set for it. Provide each participant with a set of rules. Rules cover such items as any bans on alcoholic beverages (especially important for St. Patrick’s Day parades), controls on the content of signs (such as advertisements for local businesses), propriety of costumes (Halloween brings out the devil in some strutters), length of floats, and such.
Make sure everyone in the community, all of your prospective onlookers, knows about the parade well ahead of time. Your publicity committee will want to be sure that a few days before the parade, the local newspaper publishes the parade route and, if possible, the order of march. The night before the parade, put up signs around town leading people to the parade and additional signs to show where there is free parking. Don’t forget to take them down afterward.
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