Canonsburg residents bristle at chair curbs on July 4 parade route

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Residents in Canonsburg want to make sure they have a front-row seat to the next Fourth of July parade -- even though it's nine months away.

Borough council will vote tonight whether to allow parade-goers to stake claim to spots two days ahead of the event.

For years, people have decorated lawn chairs and placed them in the best real estate along the 1.5-mile route days -- and sometimes weeks -- before the festivities.

But in July, safety concerns prompted council to pass an edict that would allow no chairs along Pike Street before 6 a.m. July 4. The vote caused something of an uproar in the community of 8,000 that swells by thousands on the fourth, leaders say.

Mayor David Rhome said people began lining the roads with chairs two weeks before the parade this year, earlier than he remembers in his three-year tenure.

"They just multiplied so fast that it became a concern," he said. "As they kept developing and developing, it became an issue, as far as safety, for everyone."

Some chairs blew into the road, but even some stationary ones were presenting a hazard, Mr. Rhome said. He cited one instance this year in which 10 to 15 chairs were strung together with a cable and padlock between two trees along the main thoroughfare.

If police or emergency crews were needed in those areas, he said, the chairs would have prevented easy access.

Police Chief R.T. Bell was unavailable for comment.

Councilman Joseph Graff Sr. said the borough was also worried about liability if someone was involved in an accident.

"There were people who were falling over the chairs," he said. "[Parade goers] were roping the chairs to telephone poles and signs."

The borough markets the event as the second-biggest Fourth of July parade in the state behind Philadelphia's, and many people consider hauling lawn chairs out before the big day part of a long-standing tradition.

"We decided that many people were upset, so we went to the Fourth of July Committee and said 'What can we do? What would you suggest we do?' " Councilman Joseph McGarry said.

The committee offered a compromise: Allow residents to claim spots two days prior -- that way, chair setters would not impede runners and fans lining up for the early morning Whiskey Rebellion 5K, an annual run held before the parade. Chairs set out too early would be collected and stored in one place to be reclaimed.

Facebook users on the "Save the Canonsburg Parade Chairs" page seemed pleased with the new plan. The page had more than 260 "likes" as of Sunday night.

But not everyone is happy with the compromise.

"I'm opposed to two days because the chairs have become a tradition," said 82-year-old Anthony Colaizzo, former mayor and longtime Canonsburg resident who helped start the first Fourth of July parade 50 years ago. "It is not a peril, as what it's made out to be by some of the officeholders."

The meeting is scheduled for 7 tonight in council chambers, 68 E. Pike St.

neigh_south

Molly Born: mborn@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1944.


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