Parade Viewing Etiquette

For the past three years, we’ve gone to see the Santa Barbara Holiday Parade the Friday after Thanksgiving. Though we missed our friends Billy, Ingrid, Billy, Seth, Grace, and Luke this year, we were glad to go with Ryan, Mary Karlee, Marielle, and Jenna. Outings with these friends always prove to be entertaining and exciting. This event was no exception. For more than one reason.


We arrived on State Street at about 5PM. The parade starts at 6:30PM. Most years we’ve still been able to find a spot on the curb at that time. We park our chairs and eat some dinner as we watch the street close off and hordes of people flow in.

Some people apparently get there much earlier in the day and leave their beach chairs unattended on the sidewalk to mark their spot.

When we showed up this time at our usual 5PM we found that almost every spot was taken. Most were empty placeholder chairs but some had living bodies holding their spot. We walked up and down the block hoping to find at least 1 sq. ft. of empty space but it was looking dire.

Finally, we came upon a clear section of sidewalk. It was too good to be true. We looked suspiciously at the spot. All that was keeping it clear was a thin rectangle of masking tape.

Should we take it? We were meeting our friends and needed to park it somewhere before our kids melted down from hunger and fatigue. There were no other options. It seemed silly to waste a space when we couldn’t be sure it was reserved. Did tape actually mean it was off limits?

We settled for placing our chairs just to the right side of the “designated section” and hoped for the best. Our friends showed up and we all just barely fit. Other families asked if we were using the empty space and we explained what we found and how we were leaving some part open, just in case. The other families took our lead and placed their chairs on the other sliver of space to the left side of the tape.

After 30 minutes our kids got restless, so the good husbands took them on a walk. Mary Karlee and I were enjoying a fine conversation when another family showed up. The woman in the group walked up to the now considerably more narrow empty space and was livid.

She turned on the family to the left of the taped rectangle and demanded to know why they put their chairs on her space. She had gotten there at 3:30PM, she claimed, and had placed a clearly distinguishable taped rectangle with a “Reserved” sign in the middle. The shocked family said that they weren’t sure that the spot was reserved so they took a portion of it.

She huffed and puffed and ranted on about getting there first and how the spot was hers. Then she looked at our empty chairs and sneered that they would have to go. She picked one up to chuck it aside and I interrupted her rampage to say that the chair was mine and that when we arrived there was no sign and the markings were unclear.

Needless to say she was not happy with me, but I felt good for standing up for myself. Heated confrontation is not my strong suit, so I was grateful I could articulate what I thought without breaking down in tears. I don’t think it made much of a dent in her attitude, although I did request that she say please when she told me to move my chair. I’ve got a 5-year-old that can make snotty demands while throwing a fit if I want that kind of treatment, thank you very much.

When the hubbub ended and we finished settling into our newly resized seating area, our families returned from their walk. They had missed the altercation completely. By then it was 6:45PM and the kids began to get restless. They can only sit like this for so long without a float riding by.


So we let them loose on the streets.


As soon as the first banner could be seen in the distance, Warren informed us that the parade was starting. The kids were so excited. The two oldest didn’t even want to leave to go to the bathroom, even when the situation started looking grim.


We lasted a good 60 minutes total, from the leading police motorcycle to the 5th fire engine. The kids didn’t want to leave but exiting parking structures in under 10 minutes and avoiding traffic to the freeway on-ramp trumps watching another marching band set. We have yet to see Santa or the end of the parade but it’s alright. We always leave feeling like Christmastime is really here.


What do you think? Is a thin rectangle enough to stake claim on a spot? Or should you have to physically be there to say it’s yours?

4 thoughts on “Parade Viewing Etiquette”

  1. TAPE DOESN’T COUNT!!!! I took the kids to that parade every year too, and would show up at least an hour early with enough snacks, water, games, toys, & patience to keep the kids busy while we waited in our seats. When people showed up 2 minutes before it started and thought they could sit front and center, I was more than happy to step up and be the bad guy.

  2. I agree that tape does not count. At least other people left their chairs as collateral! Good job for standing up for yourself! People can be so ridiculous!!

  3. Ugh! My ears were getting hot just reading about it! Really now, you can’t just “claim” a spot and not make the sacrifice for someone to be there IN the spot. At least one person has to stay there.

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