How to Organize Your Own 4th of July Neighborhood Parade

Kids riding bikes in a neighborhood Fourth of July paradeBikers and walkers can be just as festive as parade floats for a neighborhood Independence Day parade. Image: raw206/iStockphoto

You can make your kids the stars of their own Independence Day parade and celebration. Here’s how.

It’s fun to watch a Fourth of July parade, but it’s even more fun to be in one. And it only takes three things to create a fabulous parade memory for your children:

  • A closed-off street, such as a cul-de-sac, dead-end, or alderman-approved street closure
  • A dozen or so friends and neighbors with kids young enough to be easily impressed
  • Streamers and other decorations for bikes and wagons

Preschoolers live for this kind of event; early elementary schoolers enjoy it if they can decorate their bikes; older elementary kids can lead off the parade by carrying the flag. And if you’ve got the kind of dog who’ll wear a patriotic T-shirt or bandana, you’ve got a mascot.

Encourage your friends to wear a patriotic costume or T-shirt and bring any musical instruments they own, like kazoos, tambourines, and drums. Lure the childless neighbors into being spectators with free beer (at your house after the parade).

Gather everyone together in the morning before it gets too hot and make a party out of taping streamers to bike handles, painting faces, and dressing up the kids and the dogs. Pass out the kazoos, line up the kids, and march your parade down the street.

When you’re done, head back to the yard for a cookout and a neighborhood photo.

Want a Bigger Parade?

If your kids are too old for a one-block parade, you can organize a real parade using this checklist from Barbara Russell, whose family has organized an Independence Day Parade in the Washington, D.C., suburb of Columbia, Md., for the past two decades:

  • Pick your route. Make it long enough to be fun, but not so long that the kids get pooped before the end. A circular route is nice because everyone ends up back where they started.
  • Ask your city or county for a special events permit to hold a parade. In many jurisdictions, the police department issues permits.
  • Call the police department to get the parade route blocked off.
  • Ask the fire department to send a truck to lead the parade and the junior firefighters to march.
  • Find a Girl Scout and a Boy Scout troop to be the flag bearers.
  • Make and post flyers inviting people to march in the parade.
  • Send the local paper a note about the parade.
  • Invite someone to be grand marshal and official “Good Neighbor” of the year.

If you really want to blow it out:

  • Email the high school band director to see if the marching band wants to play.
  • Invite local politicians to walk in the parade. Most will leap at the chance to get their names in front of the voters.
  • Ask community groups like the American Legion, Kiwanis, or Civitans if they’d like to join the parade.
  • Contact the Chamber of Commerce if you want businesses to put floats in your parade.

Liability Issues

Russell isn’t much of a worrier, so she doesn’t ask anyone to fill out a waiver before joining the parade, and she doesn’t buy a liability policy to cover the event, either. If you’re more risk-averse, you can spend just under $400 to buy a commercial general liability policy, says Brigitt Whitescarver, a vice president at Gales Creek Services, which sells parade insurance nationally.

Whitescarver says there’s one catch to parade liability policies — they don’t cover automobiles, but they do cover golf carts, electric scooters, and ATVs in parades. Adding on a general liability policy for hired and not-owned automobiles will run you another $650 — ouch! At that price, I’d stick to bikes, trikes, and foot power, and use golf carts or ATVs to pull the floats.

Related: Ideas for Flying Old Glory on July 4th

Are you up for planning a little Fourth of July parade around your neighborhood? Tell us how it went and share pictures of your event here.