Your Complete Guide to Planning a Neighborhood Parade

parade theme

We live in a “Leave it to Beaver” type of neighborhood. People have lived here for over 40 years, and the next generations have taken over the parents’ homes so new families are continually moving in. We have relatively flat streets and nice, albeit bumpy, sidewalks. Perfect for a parade. I have done enough event planning over the years to know preparation is everything and a neighborhood parade is no different. I thought I’d take a break from podcasting advice to share this “kit” with you in case you’d like to have a successful parade next Fourth of July. Planning a neighborhood parade starts now!

12-9 Months Out:

Create an online group an invite the neighbors to make management super easy. If you already have a group online, you can skip this part.

Use tools such as NextDoor, Yahoo Groups, or Facebook pages/groups. Set it up and get ready to invite your anchor neighbors; these are the ones that you see everywhere. They are always out and active. Hopefully, you are already on email, text and Facebook terms with them. Personally invite them to be group leaders with you for this neighborhood group, and decide if you want to make it invite-only – that keeps the spammers off the page and keeps us focused on events and helping each other.

Once you have an online place for them, create a simple flyer and see if a local real estate agent, insurance agent, would be willing to print for you. They can include their “printing donated by” tastefully at the bottom with their website link and phone.

Tap into those anchor neighbors, then divide and conquer by distributing one flyer to EACH house. Make sure you let everyone know their information won’t be shared, but you want it as a gathering place online to plan the parade and possibly other neighborhood events.

Parade signs for your neighborhood

where will your parade end?Decide on the start and end points for your parade.

The starting point host house will usually be the one with the biggest flagpole. That will determine your route. Once you know the beginning and end of the route, the rest of it will come together. Don’t make it too long. Ours is about 1.5 miles, and that’s pushing it for parents hauling floats and younger new bike riders.

Come up with a theme.

This helps give your participants ideas. Be sure to include it in flyers and announcements

Create your list of needs for this parade and chop it up into easy jobs. Our list includes:

  • Flyer and sign distribution and pick up.
  • Judges committee – great job for teens.
  • Registration
  • Classic Car wrangler and pacer.
  • Scout Troop liaison for the flag ceremony
  • Sound person
  • Announcer
  • Fire and Police liaison
  • VIP coffee/donuts procurement
  • Prize procurement
  • Hot dogs/drinks at the end of the route.
  • Popsicles to get the kids to turn in their numbers – trade one for the other.
  • T-shirts?
  • Clean up

6-9 months out.

  • Procure prizes – this will be determined by how many categories. Having a 1st, 2nd, 3rd place is plenty. Our local bowling alley gave a 2-game card to every participant, as well as big prizes of bowling parties.
  • Secure the police and fire departments.
  • Get the permit handled.
  • Touch bases with all of your parade team.

3-6 months out.

  • Rent/secure loan of the mic and PA
  • Get donation of coffee/donuts.
  • Secure scout troop.
  • Since by now you will know your sponsors of prizes, order the RWB ribbons online that you can clip a laminated “medal” too. Our chairperson added the sponsor logo to each “medal,” printed, cut out and laminated them. We find these are way better than certificates; they’re less expensive than the small trophies that tend to clutter rooms. Kids LOVED the ribbons and they were great in photos, too. They could run around with them and didn’t lose them like they did trophies and certificates. Some wore them all day with their shirts.

1-3 months out

  • Secure judges.
  • Talk to the committee again.
  • Get food plans settled – hot dogs, drinks, Popsicles, grill.
  • Get flyers printed and delivered to the person/people distributing them. PROOF THEM TWICE. Have someone else proof them, too.
  • Post on the group board with a reminder of the theme and ask any additional help you need.
  • Give a shout-out to the sponsors of prizes as they come in, including printing, coffee, etc.

2 weeks out

  • Touch bases with Police Department about cone drop off, appearance and make sure they have a contact person and know where the parade route is.
  • Same with Fire Dept.
  • Same with Scouts
  • Same with judges and the time you expect them there.
  • Get out the announcement signs at all entrances to your neighborhood.

1 week out

  • Meet with registration folks, PA person, donut person, and scout/emergency services liaisons, including the host house in case you need electricity, for them to unlock the flag pole, etc. Text or phone is fine, but make sure everyone is still on board and nothing has come up.
  • Get route signs to that person who will put them up and take them down.
  • Get numbers to the registration lead. Remind them to bring a table(s) and chair(s), pens.
  • Determine who will be the lead car by talking to the cool car wrangler. Let that person know. Remind all cars to be festive.

Night before

  • Confirm your roadblock sign person is all set! Tape, etc.
  • Who is picking up coffee/donuts – make sure they are set and will be there early with the registration folks and to greet the scouts.
  • Test PA wireless one more time. Do you have a patriotic playlist for your cars and to play through a phone? Do you have adapters for phones to connect? Test it!

That morning

  • You’ve done all that you can do. Be fresh, enjoy it, let your leads do what they volunteered to do. It will be OK. Remember to get the judges to the end. We usually stick them in a car at the end unless they are still walking and judging – getting the backstories to those fancy bikes.
  • Make sure food/popsicle people know where to be and that they have someone helping them.
  • Make sure your judges know what you expect from them and where to go after they judge the entries.

After the parade

  • Set up an area for prizes, PA.
  • Make announcements.
  • Thank sponsors twice.
  • Remind people about shirts, food, etc. and of the group online.
  • Add all those from the registration list to the group.
  • Send out recap group email thanking them all.
  • Send hand-written thank you to sponsors, troop, donors, fire and police and each volunteer with free bowling card or something, perhaps a photo from the parade they can share or post on a bulletin board.
  • Write up your debriefing of what worked, what didn’t for next year whether it’s you in charge again, or you pass the torch.
  • Clean up boxes, put numbers in order, gather all the signs, clean off the old tape – make it easy for next year.

parade group

The details on each of the jobs for your event:

  • Flyer distribution to let people know about the online page/group and for parade route details two weeks prior to the event. These are handed out to each home, but not in the mailbox – that’s illegal.
  • Directional sign placement for the route – the day of and gathering of the signs after. We got ours printed on corrugated plastic two-sided so they work wherever we put them. We also have signs on stands (VistaPrint) for each entrance to the neighborhood that we put out two weeks before so kids can plan their float. See if someone will donate the printing if you don’t have a fund for this yet. We use our hot dog money each year for this type of thing.
  • Judges committee – great job for teens. We usually have four judges, but two will work. They each need a clipboard and the kids love having a special hat or sash to look official.
  • Registration – and numbers to pin on themselves. We have a set of the marathon type of numbers with “Royal Woodlands” at the top. We section the numbers by type of entry: 0-100 bike, 101-200 helmet, 201-300 scooter, 301-400 stroller, 401-500 wagon, 501-600 pet, 601-700 float, 701-800 group, 801-900 car. IT makes it easier for our judges and passing out the numbers. Two people at a table with clipboards and lists – number, name, address, family email. Easy. Always have a tub of safety pins.
  • Classic Car wrangler and pacer to filter in the cars between the groups of bikes, scooters, strollers, wagons, floats. This can be posted to your online group, or if you know of someone who has a really cool car, golf cars, etc. ask them.
  • Scout Troop liaison for the flag ceremony – just a few of them to help set the tone for the event.
  • Sound person – rents CORDLESS PA system for announcements, music and more. Rent it or buy it. If you borrow it, make sure you have it a few weeks ahead of time in case that person goes out of town and you need a plan B. TEST IT, TEST IT, TEST IT.
  • An announcer at the line-up and at the park or endpoint for prizes, sponsor shoutouts, lost children and more. This is why you need a wireless PA system.
  • Fire and Police liaison – can be the same person as other tasks. This took two phone calls. This is usually the same person that secures the permit and traffic cones, etc. from the city.
  • VIP coffee/donuts – a great way to entice judges, registration, scouts, cars to get there on time! Usually donated. We reach out to Sesame Donuts, Starbucks and Dutch Bros.
  • Prize procurement – way easier than you’d think if you start early.  Local shops supported by your neighborhood are usually willing to donate prizes. Local pet stores, pizza places, burger joints – perfect.
  • Hot dogs/drinks at the end of the route. We charge $1 each. Someone brings a gas grill and a bunch of coolers with drinks. Don’t’ forget the condiments and plates.
  • Popsicles to get the kids to turn in their numbers – trade one for the other. We buy 200.  We only needed 160. Two coolers, ice and you are set. Buy them in bulk. Don’t buy Otterpops – too many small pieces of the wrappers.
  • T-shirts? We are fortunate and have a Big Frog owner here, so we get shirts at a cost of $5. He actually went home to print more and bring them back to the park. We presell them. Looks so fun with a ton of people wearing their annual shirt.
  • Clean up – can be food people, but you want to clean up every last streamer and popsicle stick.