Parades are a great way to celebrate holidays, honor someone special, raise awareness, or bring together a community. But there’s a lot more to organizing a parade than most events you’re likely to take on. Never fear! You’ve got this. Answer these 10 questions and you’ll be well on your way to parade day!
1. What’s the special occasion?
Is this a 4th of July parade? A Pride parade? A memorial parade for a lost loved one? Whatever the reason behind the parade is, it’s important to uncover it to establish a theme for all who participate and attend. Your theme will affect many things, but most importantly who gets involved (sponsors, volunteers, entertainment, and attendees).
2. How big will the parade be?
Are you planning a parade for your neighborhood or the entire town/city? It’s important to determine your parade’s scale so that you can map out your route, block off the necessary roads, and get the appropriate coverage for your event.
3. When is it?
Choose a date that gives you plenty of time to plan and advertise your parade. The smaller your parade is, the easier it will be to pull it off in a short amount of time. But, like anything else, the more time you have to prepare, the better.
4. What’s your budget?
Your budget plays a huge role in planning a parade and there’s a lot to consider: advertising costs, special permits/insurance, hired security, route barriers, and float construction, to name a few. It’s important that the budget you’re working with fits the size of the parade you’re planning. In fact, it’s wise to plan on spending less than your budget allows to leave room for error or unforeseen circumstances.
5. Who can help?
Depending on the size of your parade, you may need a lot of help. Put out a call for volunteers to help plan, staff, and cleanup after the parade. Once your committee is formed, you can break the committee into small teams and delegate tasks.
6. What special permissions do you need?
Generally, you need to obtain special permits for parades. You should go to your local City Hall to fill out an application for this permit. They’ll typically ask questions about your cause and/or organization and details regarding the date, time, and number of participants expected. It’s likely that you’ll be required to have some level of security coverage present (whether it’s police, fire, and/or EMT), in addition to barriers set up along your parade route. You may also be required to purchase Special Event Liability Insurance. These are all topics that you can discuss with your local City Hall officials to determine what needs to be done.
7. Will you have sponsors?
Are you looking for sponsors to participate? If so, think about how you’d like them to participate. Parades are appealing to local businesses because they draw in large crowds, and therefore make for good advertising opportunities. If you give your sponsors enough notice, they may be interested in building a float for their business. But there are many ways to get local businesses involved other than elaborate floats. Ask local car dealerships to contribute by providing cars to drive in the parade as a form of free advertising. Ask local restaurants or grocery stores to sponsor by donating food and refreshments for the crowd, or candy to be thrown from the floats in the parade. You can also ask for monetary sponsorship and in turn, advertise the sponsor companies’ logos on banners, t-shirts, flyers, etc. Be sure to establish guidelines for your sponsors regarding their wardrobe, advertising, and float dimensions, as well as any other concerns you might have.
8. What does the actual timeline of your parade look like?
Sure, you know the parade will start at 9 AM and end at 11, but when does it really start? A lot of work goes into setting up for and cleaning up after a parade. It’s crucial to know when to ask your volunteers, staff, and participants to arrive before the parade to set up. You’ll also want to designate help for after the parade is over, and make sure you have your bases covered during the parade itself, of course. Walkie-talkies are a great investment for events like this, trust us.
9. Where to advertise?
Reach out to local newspapers, magazines, social networking communities, news stations, and radio stations to advertise the parade. Create a Facebook event and invite everyone you know. Hang flyers near the parade route and surrounding areas. Don’t forget to check for community posting boards in local grocery stores and cafes!
10. Who will be marching?
While some of your participants will be sponsors, many parades allow other groups to march as well. For example, if you’re hosting a Memorial Day parade, you’ll probably want to invite local soldiers to participate. Ask your town’s high school marching band to participate, or hire a professional Marching Band. It’s also a great idea to book Stilt Walkers, Clowns, Fire Dancers, Dance Troupes, Jugglers, or other entertainers to participate and keep the crowd excited. (Of course, the type of entertainment you should choose will vary depending on your theme.)
Create a registration sheet and log each and every individual, performer, group, or organization who will be participating in the parade. Set the order of the parade and let all parties involved know where in the line they should be. Ask them to line up about 1 to 1 1/2 hours in advance to avoid potential conflicts. You’ll want to make sure to leave plenty of space between each group: (about 3 car lengths is pretty typical).
You’ll find that as you go along planning your parade, new questions will come about as you answer these ten. Like any event with a great amount of detail, there are many facets to making the event a success. We hope that these ten questions have given you a good place to start. If you’re in need of Concessions, Rentals, or other Entertainment for your parade, we’ve got your back!