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What's with All These Chairs? - by Andra Gillum

Author’s Note:  I have lived in Upper Arlington (UA), Ohio for over 20 years.  It’s a wonderful suburban neighborhood just outside Columbus. Like many old communities, it is steeped in tradition.

To those of us who have lived in Upper Arlington for more than a few years, the sudden appearance of lawn chairs along Northwest Boulevard in mid-to-late June doesn’t surprise us a bit.  We don’t even look twice.  Of course, these chairs have been placed along the parade route well in advance of the 4th of July parade.  There’s caution tape, roped off areas, benches, chairs, even a few couches.  No big deal.

But for those who are new to UA, and don’t yet understand the enormity of this July 4th tradition, I wonder what goes through their heads.  Do they think that the Pope is coming?  Or maybe the President?  I wonder if they would cause such a stir?

Every year, the chairs appear earlier and earlier.  People used to set out their chairs a day or two before the parade.  Then someone dared secure their spot on June 30th, and the whole game changed.  Mid-June now seems to be fair game.  It reminds me of Christmas displays in stores.  They used to go up before Thanksgiving, then it was right before Halloween.  Now, they’re looking at a Labor Day start to the holiday season.

But who has the right to secure a spot?  Is it the property owner?  Do they get entire section in front of their house?  Can they give permission to friends to use their space?  Maybe it’s an open seating platform. Anyone can use their property as long as they’re first to rope it off.  

People who live in Florida and California pay a high premium for beachfront property.  Here in UA, we pay a premium for parade front property. Realtors tout that as a huge selling feature, along with granite counter tops and hardwood floors.

So, if people are paying top dollar for this red-hot real estate, shouldn’t they have first dibs for parade seating?  At the least, they shouldn’t have other people leaving stuff in their yard for several weeks without paying a storage fee.  What happens when they need to mow the lawn? Kind of a pain to move everything.  Are they obligated to put everything back exactly as they found it?  That’s a lot of pressure.

What about the area in front of banks and other businesses?  Is this their space to reserve for customers or is it fair game?  Is there some “Open a new CD and get 4 seats along the parade route” promotion that I don’t know about?  If you prefer McDonalds, can you sit in front of Wendy’s?

I really don’t know the answer to any these questions, but I fear they have led to some major arguments.  I know the UA police ask that residents wait until as close to the 4th as possible to set out their chairs, but we are obviously ignoring that advice.  I guess they’re given up.

They just hope that people remain civil and dignified with each other.  We are celebrating a wonderful holiday and a great country, so let’s try to embrace the spirit.

Personally, we’ve never set out chairs before the parade.  We usually just head for the end of the parade route and get as close as possible or try to score an invitation to celebrate at one of the luxurious parade-front homes.  These elaborate parties are another story, so we’ll save that for the next blog.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I love the UA 4th of July parade and celebration.  What a wonderful and fun family tradition.  And I really have no opinion on what the proper pre-parade chair etiquette is.

I was just thinking to myself how utterly outrageous this all must seem to anyone new to UA.  They have a few rules to learn about Columbus and Upper Arlington, but I’m sure they’ll figure it all out quickly.  

Next month, they’ll face Buckeye Football mania, which you truly must see to believe.  A few months after that, they’ll try to register their kids to visit Santa at Christmas in the Park, only to learn that they should have set their alarm for 5:00 a.m.  

We could publish a handbook, but it’s more fun to watch them figure it out themselves.  That’s the way it’s always been, and who are we to break tradition?

Happy Independence Day everyone!  Enjoy the parade from wherever you sit.


Andra Gillum is a free-lance writer from Upper Arlington, Ohio, and the author of Doggy Drama, Puppy Drama and Old Doggy Drama.  Learn more at www.doggydrama.com.   Send your comments and feedback to andra@doggydrama.com.