Seven tips for July 4 parade volunteers

Practically every Iowa town is holding an Independence Day parade tonight or tomorrow. Several Democratic statewide candidates will be at the Freedom Fest Parade in Coralville. Even in an off-year, your county party or a local candidate may be looking for help during the event.

I enclose below a slightly altered version of this diary, containing my best advice for parade volunteers.

1. If you carry a sign, keep the message positive.

When you call to volunteer for the parade, ask if they will have a flag or a candidate's sign for you to carry.

If they ask you to bring your own sign, or you prefer to make your own sign, I encourage you to say something positive about either a candidate or your own values.

I've gotten lots of smiles and thumbs-up in the past with a hand-made sign that quotes the Declaration of Independence:

We hold these truths

to be self-evident,

that all men*

are created equal...

*and women!

2. If you wear a political t-shirt, keep the message positive.

I often wear a plain red or white shirt on July 4, or sometimes a shirt with the Iowa flag. If you wear a t-shirt with a slogan, make it an upbeat one.

Even people who agree with you probably don't want to see an angry or cynical message during a holiday parade. Campaign t-shirts are ok if you want to support your candidate.

3. Don't take the bait if you get heckled.

In my experience, few people go out of their way to bother parade marchers, but I've had onlookers shout out "I voted for Bush" or something unflattering about a candidate I was supporting.

Take the high road and model good behavior for the children who will be watching. I usually smile and say, "My dad was a Republican" or "It's a free country" or "Happy Fourth of July!"

4. Protect yourself from the sun.

Parade routes can be two to four miles long, and you may be out in the sun for many hours, including the time you wait around for the parade to get started. If it's a sunny day, wear sunglasses or a hat to shade your eyes.

Bring some water so you don't get dehydrated.

Don't forget sunscreen, including on the back of your legs, neck, shoulders, and ears. The Environmental Working Group's database is a good place to find effective sunscreens that don't contain a lot of toxic chemicals.

5. If your local parade is in the evening, protect yourself from mosquitoes.

I prefer repellents without DEET, but some of those don't last as long, so apply shortly before the parade.

6. Wear comfortable shoes if you will be walking.

Sandals or flip-flops could leave you with blisters by the end of the route.

7. If you are unable to walk, make sure there will be room for you to ride.

You don't need to walk to volunteer on July 4. You can hold a sign or flag, wave or throw candy to children while riding in the truck or car your local Democrats are using. Just let the organizers know ahead of time that you'd like to ride in a vehicle during the parade.

Please share your Independence Day tips in the comments.

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