Parades are one of our country’s great traditions. They can be dignified and solemn, commemorating a significant national holiday. Or, they can be wild and festive celebrations. No matter the reason for the parade, crowds gather to watch. And where there are crowds, there is a need for etiquette to help ensure everyone gets along with civility and needed respect. In our parade etiquette guide, you will find helpful etiquette advice for showing respect to the US flag, getting along with fellow spectators, and enjoying the parade in a stress-free environment.
Observing the US Flag
As the US flag passes your position on the parade route, please observe the following parade etiquette rules:
- Make sure you are standing;
- If you are wearing a hat, remove it;
- Cover your heart with your right hand (military members should give a military salute); and
- Temporarily stop conversations as the flag passes.
Non-US citizens should stand quietly.
There may be many US flags in the parade (small flags waived by parade participants, flags on parade floats, etc.). You do not need to salute them all. If an honor guard is carrying the US flag, or the US flag is presented in a group of flags, stand and salute.
Parade participants that need to know how to carry a US Flag in a parade should read our parade participant section. For more information on how the handle the US flag in other situations, visit our flag etiquette page.
Watching the parade from the right location and with enough space is easily the most common cause of friction at a parade. Far too often, a few spectators will push to the front, thoughtlessly getting in the way of those who arrived early to have an unobstructed view. There’s never a good reason to barge in front of other spectators. If you arrive late, find an uncrowded location along the route or stand near the back of the crowd.
In most communities, it’s acceptable to stake out a good spot ahead of time to watch the parade from, with one caveat. Remember the spots along a parade route are usually public. You don’t have an absolute right to the space because you set out a chair to occupy an area of sidewalk. Most other spectators will honor the space-saver you set out, but some may not. Just remember, it is not your space until you arrive. So, if you show up and find someone is occupying the spot, take your chair and move on. The first person to arrive is entitled to stay there.
Saving a Spot for Friends
It is fine to save a spot for a friend who has arrived, but needs to run to take a bathroom break, or for some other reason. In extreme crowds, it is not okay, however, to save a spot for someone that has yet to arrive and may not show up.
Staying in your spot
If there will be a large crowd, try to use the bathroom ahead of time, bring water, sunscreen, rain gear, and other necessities so that you don’t have to leave your spot during the parade. While needs may dictate you must, try to avoid leaving the spot if possible.
Respecting Other’s Property
Remember not to block driveways or store entrances of establishments open for business. Be considerate when finding a parking space. Observe all parking laws and rules. Don’t park in a private lot unless you pay or have permission. Don’t bother people in private residences who live along the parade route. Stay off their property unless you have permission to be there. Do not ask to use their toilet, or other amenities.
Be a Good Neighbor
If you are near the front of the crowd, remember those standing behind you. If possible, do what you can to stay out of their line of vision. Don’t obstruct their view by holding your phone over your head to film the parade.
Be mindful of your neighbors, especially children or the elderly. If you can accommodate, let small children in front so they can see the parade. If you collect trinkets or candy, be generous and share with youngsters behind you that were not lucky enough to get a good spot.
Be friendly and make polite conversation with those next to you in the crowd.
Remember, there are likely families with young children watching the parade, so watch your language. Do not curse or otherwise behave obnoxiously.
Keep Your Children Under Control
With excitement in the air, it can be hard for children not to get too excited. Please make sure they are respectful of other’s space and enjoyment of the parade. Bring small toys, games, and/or snacks to keep children occupied before the parade starts. For their safety, keep them from running into the parade route.
Don’t litter. Take out everything you brought with you to the parade or use one of the trash cans along the route.
If the route will be very crowded, leave your pets at home. If your pet does not do well with crowds or attention from strangers, leave your pet at home. If it is appropriate to bring a pet, make sure they are always on a lease and under control. Please clean up after your pet if needed.
If the route will be crowded, don’t bring large objects like coolers or BBQ grills.
Stay out of the Street
For the safety of yourself and the people participating in the parade, do not run out into the street during the parade. Do not run across the street directly in front of the parade procession.
Obviously, if your community does not allow public consumption of alcohol, don’t bring it. If it is allowed, remember again that you are in a family setting. Don’t overindulge before or during the parade.
Leave noisemakers, balloons, and other distracting objects at home. Don’t bring items that will interfere with other spectators’ enjoyment of the parade.
For Parade Participants
Carrying the US Flag in a Parade
A color guard, comprised of veterans, current service members, or local figures selected by parade organizers, usually leads the parade. They carry the US flag and possibly others.
Regardless of whether the flag is carried by a color guard, or other parade participants, the following rules apply:
- The US flag must be carried to the right of other flags or centered if it is carried in front of other flags.
- The person carrying the US flag should hold the flag in front of themselves either straight up-and-down or at a 30-degree angle.
- Never dip the flag.
Other flags. As mentioned above, other flags are carried to the left of the US flag. Flags of foreign country are carried next to the US flag, in alphabetical order. State flags come next, followed by service flags carried in the order the service was established:
- Army flag;
- Marine Corps flag;
- Navy flag;
- Air Force flag;
- Coast Guard flag.
Following these parade etiquette tips will make the day more enjoyable for you and those around you. Always remember to be considerate of those around you.