Plan a Memorial Day parade as a festive neighborhood way honor our nation’s veterans who gave their lives to defend our freedoms. It is a highly visible way to help our children learn about the significance of Memorial Day and the value of patriotism in their lives.
- About a month before the holiday, talk with your neighbors to see if there is interest, and then start your planning. Deciding what kind of parade or accompanying activities you want to have is first and foremost. If you just want to have a parade, you may want to hold it in the morning before it gets too hot or folks have plans to attend lunchtime cookouts or pool parties.
- Invitations to participate and watch the parade can be issued in a variety of ways. You can post signs at neighborhood intersections. These are passive ways to include neighbors, but the best way is to go door-to-door to make personal contact. Your children and their friends may enjoy going around to take a little flag or patriotic favor with a printed invitation to each home in the area. Be sure to include what to do in case of bad weather.
- Check with your community government to see if you need a permit. Select a parade route that will encompass the neighborhood. The best choice would be to have the parade on sidewalks. If your neighborhood doesn’t have sidewalks, ask neighbors if they will allow the parade to take place at the edge of their lawn or if you can block off one lane of your streets.
- Have a rain-date on your invitation in case the weather is bad on parade day.
- A color guard carrying the American flag, state flag and locality flags is always in keeping with a patriotic event—see if the neighborhood Boy Scout or Girl Scout troop could carry the flags or perhaps students from a local ROTC group or National Guard unit. Invite your neighborhood Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Indian Guides/Princesses, Civil Air Patrol or other groups to participate as a walking unit. They could be encouraged to carry appropriate banners, placards, flags or props.
- You may want to have the children decorate their parade rides at home or decorate them at the gathering place. Let the kids decorate their bicycles or tricycles. They can also decorate wagons to pull younger siblings or well-behaved pets. Encourage them to wear red, white and blue clothing and hats as well or to paint their faces. If they are to decorate them at the parade start, be certain to have lots of red, white and blue decorative items, tape and scissors available for participants to use. Ask parents to contribute supplies and/or borrow flags and decorations from the neighbors. If this is to be an annual event, buy supplies after Memorial Day or July 4 at discounted prices to save for next year.
- Invite local dance or gymnastics groups, jump rope clubs or baton twirlers to participate. Invite neighborhood band students to play or contact your local high school band director to see if he/she could suggest student drummers or instrumentalists to invite to participate. Inexpensive floats can be created by decorating pick-up trucks, golf carts, mopeds, motorcycles, garden trailers, boats or jet-skis being pulled by cars. Convertible cars are also great to use in parades. Patriotic themes can include patriotic symbols (flag, Statue of Liberty, Uncle Sam), tributes to the armed forces, historical events or time periods (signing of the Declaration of Independence, end of the Civil War) Rent a helium tank or buy a disposable one so that you can have many red, white and blue helium balloons carried or attached to the floats.
- Involve your elderly neighbors, especially those who were veterans. Set lawn chairs in shady spots for them to sit and watch.
- Borrow a bullhorn or a sound system so that making sure everyone can hear your instructions is easier.
- Plan to have everyone gather a half hour before the start of the parade, in order to line up. The gathering place could be at the neighborhood clubhouse, a local church parking lot or someone’s home. Have extra sunscreen and mosquito repellent for those participating in the parade who forget theirs.
- Remember your camera or cell phone – taking photos is a great way to bring together your family and neighbors and will bring smiles to your face as you look at them later. Plus, you can include some of the photos in the colorful flyer you’ll make for next year!
- Make sure there are several adults to walk along with the parade. Assign older children and teens to help the younger kids. Explain to everyone that, while the parade is for having fun, being safe is more important. No one is to go into the street, helmets are to be worn by bikers and rollerbladers, and there are to be no stunts on bicycles or roller blades.
- Appoint a parade leader to carry a portable sound system, playing patriotic music, at the front of the parade. As the parade is about to start, remind everyone that this is a parade, not a race, and to stay together behind the leader. Keep the older kids from racing ahead on their decorated bikes. The parade leader should keep looking back and not going too fast, losing the rest of the group. It’s better to go slow and all stay together.
- Hand out kazoos or paper party noise makers to children who are walking or riding in wagons. Also, hand water bottles to all the kids. Make sure everyone in the parade is adorned in some kind of red, white and blue.
- You may want to have a brief introduction about the meaning of Memorial Day to teach the children why you are having a parade. Use the bullhorn or sound system. Keep it short because the children will be restless to begin.
- Turn on the sound system and start the parade. Lead the parade around the neighborhood, stopping at each house where people are gathered to watch and cheer.
- Once the parade has gone around the neighborhood, return to the starting place. You may want to give away inexpensive patriotic trinkets to the parade participants.
- Finish the day with a neighborhood cookout. Enjoy!
Check this post for other ideas for celebrating Memorial Day.