It’s been a few years since we’ve been to the 4th of July parade in Provo. If you’ve been to one of these parades you’ve been to them all so there isn’t really any need to keep going each year. Of course, we’ve been enough times in the past that we’re considered the “experts” on the logistics of this parade in the family. This year, Aunt Melissa was in town and her boys had never been to a parade so we were happy to go with them.
The key to enjoying the parade is to get a shady and grassy spot on Center street. Unfortunately, those spots are in high demand so some expert strategy is required in order to secure a spot. Provo City ordinances, specifically title 9.14.220 of the municipal code, prevent anyone from putting their blankets and stuff down before 5:00 a.m. on Center street and the Provo Police typically enforce the ordinance. Thus, there always is a mad rush at 5:00 a.m. as people throw down their blankets and chairs, rope off spots, and generally act like buffoons as they try to reserve space in the prime locations. If you don’t live in Provo and don’t want to get up really early to catch a prime spot, there are still a few tricks you can use to get yourself a nice shady location. The first trick is to realize that people always grab way more space than they need. They’ll set out a huge tarp for only 5 or 6 people. They also put a foot of space between their blanket/tarp and the next guy’s blanket/tarp. The gaps and spaces between tarps are prime real estate for late comers. You also need to remember that all the kids go running up to the curb as soon as the parade starts passing by so that they can get candy. The kids never actually end up sitting still on the tarps/blankets/chairs which contributes even more to wasted space. Finally, remember that possession is nine tenths of the law and if someone doesn’t physically hold their space down it is prone to usurpation from squatters. Usurpation is also perfectly legal because, as the parade website says “Please note that in order to reserve a spot on the parade route at least one person must be present. Any items left unattended may be moved.”
If you’re a squatter like me, you need to get there early enough so that it’s not jammed packed but late enough so that the original land rush has settled down and the hard-cores have tired of holding down their spot and have set off to collect their families or get something to eat. Between 6:30 and 7:00 a.m. is about right. You walk along the sidewalk looking for gaps between the existing arrangement of blankets/chairs/tarps then you swoop in and do a little rearranging. A little tugging here, a little adjustment there, and viola! – you’ve converted that unused space into a perfect little area for your own blankets and chairs. Avoid doing weak junk like folding their blankets in half or removing their blanket altogether (even though it’s perfectly legal). You’re not decreasing the amount of overall space they’ve claimed – you’re simply making the most efficient use of the total available space by rearranging such that small gaps become big gaps.
Of course, squatters are prone to protestations from the few hardy souls that have stuck around since 5:30 to hold down their blankets. The staker-outers mostly just sit there and glare at you but the bold ones may cry, “Hey, those are someone’s blankets!”. You need to be tough and say, “Well, I’m only scooting them over so I can use this extra space over here” or, simply, “Well, they’re not here”. You also need to periodically loudly say “People ALWAYS reserve way more space than they need!”. That generally shuts up the most vocal sentries. The most important key, of course, is DON’T BUDGE from your space. You have to put your chairs down and sit in them and don’t leave. Otherwise, you will get squatted upon yourselves or you will get moved aside by the original homesteaders when they return to reclaim their land.
The return of the original homesteaders is where your resolve will be tested the most. They will say “Hey, that was our spot!” or “We reserved that location!” Good responses are “what spot?” “where?”. They will say, “There, where our blanket is”. You can then respond “Your blanket is still there”. Remember – don’t move. Don’t stand up. Just STAY SEATED. They will think you are a mean jerk but that’s OK because you think they are greedy land-grabbers reserving way more than they need. Eventually, the homesteader’s full party will arrive and they will realize, “Oh, we didn’t really need 30 chairs for only 20 people” and they will start to fold up some of their blankets and such. At the same time, the super-late crowd will begin to arrive and ask things like “Is it OK if we just squeeze our blankets in here?” This is your chance to really sink the knife into the homesteader’s greedy heart. Your response should be, “Sure! No problem! There’s always room for more. After all, people ALWAYS reserve WAY MORE space than they need”. This response accomplishes several things: You gain allies among the super-late crowd, you look like a nice generous congenial person, and you make the original homesteader look like a dork for reserving WAY MORE space than he needed. Now, you can enjoy the parade from your nice shady spot!
Thanks to Melissa and Kyle for helping me successfully squat on some shady ground at this year’s parade. Thanks to Grandma Connie for the treats. I’m glad we went but I certainly have no desire to go again next year.