Columnist Jennifer Bardsley and her daughter enjoy An Edmonds Kind of Fourth parade — even without chairs to sit in. (Jennifer Bardsley)

Columnist Jennifer Bardsley and her daughter enjoy An Edmonds Kind of Fourth parade — even without chairs to sit in. (Jennifer Bardsley)

Spirits flare on Independence Day in a war over chairs

You can set up chairs at An Edmonds Kind of Fourth parade the night before. But it’s not so simple.

The Edmonds Fourth of July parade brings out the best — and worst — in people. I’ve seen that for 13 years.

One of the first I Brake for Moms columns I wrote was about how much my family adored the parade. My son, who was 7 at the time, especially loved the Star Wars stormtroopers. Someone wrote in and reamed me out for glorifying Nazi Germany.

“No, sir,” I responded. “I wrote ‘stormtroopers,’ as in grown adults who dress up like the Emperor’s henchman.” The Edmonds Fourth of July parade, you see, has something for everyone.

Here’s the problem: 20 years ago you could stroll downtown a half an hour before the parade started, unfold your chair and wave your flag. A decade ago, you could swing by Fifth Avenue the night before, drop off chairs, and show up the next day in time for the parade. But today the “chair wars” rage through Edmonds and everyone has an opinion about morality, entitlement and what growth means to a community.

What is fair? That’s the heart of the question.

The rule is that chairs are allowed to be set up at 6 p.m. the night before. Usually, my husband buys take-out from a local restaurant at 4:45, and visits with friends until the clock turns 6, and everyone sets up their chairs. But then, the next day, there was always a family who lets their children sit in front of us, blocking my kids’ access to candy collection. My son’s too old for picking up candy now, but when he was little, this infuriated him.

It turns out that the community is divided into two factions: chair people and non-chair people. The non-chair people think that setting up chairs the night before is unfair, and that they are justified in claiming territory in front of the chairs, because they have the moral high ground.

To make an already nebulous ethical question more complex, there are chair people who don’t follow the rules. They set up their chairs before 6 p.m., which infuriates everyone.

This year my husband was climbing Mount Fury in the Pickets and it was up to me to drop off chairs. By the time I got downtown by 5:50 p.m., there wasn’t any place to set up our chairs because all the spots were taken.

Has Edmonds become Seattle? Are we no longer a small town that’s patient, honest and kind? This is supposed to be a patriotic celebration of our country, not neighbor against neighbor.

The kids and I were so frustrated by the chair wars that we almost didn’t go to the parade. My son decided to stay home, but my daughter and I headed downtown at the last minute. We showed up on Main Street 10 minutes before the parade began — and guess what? There was an unclaimed spot of pavement right at the start, just waiting for us, and we didn’t block anyone’s view.

Jennifer Bardsley publishes books under her own name and the pseudonym Louise Cypress. Find her online on Instagram @the_ya_gal, on Twitter @jennbardsley or on Facebook as The YA Gal. Email her at

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