The North County’s heritage will once again be on full display this fall with tractors, classic cars, and all the grandeur brought by the Colony Days and Pioneer Day parades. So it’s time to grab the kiddos, line our city streets and show some community spirit at our local parades! But not go crazy in the process. And for that, I bring you parade tips. Lots and lots of parade tips.

Except, this time, I turned to my trusty Facebook readers for all the parade 411. And you guys did not disappoint! From pre-parade accessory prep to what to bring, there are some real handy nuggets here.

But before I get to the tips, can I take a moment to be corny?

You may or may not know that I was the North County government reporter for The Tribune for what feels like a million years, give or take. I didn’t have children for most of my career there. (I ended up staying home after No. 2 was born). Year after year, I covered these cherished North County parades. I talked to Pioneer Day royalty and learned their fascinating backstories steeped in history, I whittled down all the Colony Days parade routes and road closures, and I weaved “Leave your pocketbook at home!” into all the briefs. I knew these parades inside and out. 


Or, so I thought. Truth is, I never really experienced these parades until I became a parent. I told you it was corny! But hear me out.

In 2017, my then 3-year-old daughter Clara was part of a beginning ballet class for Class Act Dance, and we were invited to ride on the company’s float in the Pioneer Day Parade. It was a 70s style hippy/groovy float with glittery streamers and tie-die and all the fun music. Little Clara and I got to ride on the float together, and no joke while I was watching her little hand cup into a princess wave at the crowd, I almost cried.

It’s such a trip for me being a Paso Robles parent with kids actually taking part in the traditions I wrote about when I was just an outside observer. As a mom, not only do I get to experience events firsthand but I also get the treat of seeing them through my kids’ eyes. And there’s just no amount of article writing that’s going to replace that feeling. 

OK. Now that I’m done crying on my keyboard… here are those tips I promised you! To readers, by readers! (some comments edited for clarity and brevity).

1. Dollar store prep

Wagon and snacks! Sunglasses and sunscreen! I also paint my own kids’ faces before we go, and get flags or whatever at the dollar store so they don’t feel left out when I don’t want to spend $$$ on all the fun extra stuff. … It might not be the BEST face paint, but it does the job and makes them happy! Throw some spray glitter in their hair too and they feel like the coolest kids at the parade! – Tanya Vierra 

2. Fun fake tattoos

I do themed tattoos for the holiday!  – Amie Wadsworth 

3. Scout breakfast EARLY

We enjoy breakfast somewhere within walking distance (of the parade route), and we set out our chairs ahead of time. We love to dress up — for Pioneer Day, it’s all cowboy hats and bandanas. For the Christmas parade, we hit the dollar store for Santa hats and light-up necklaces! – Eva Downs

4. Cash it up

Always Bring cash. Because we always forget
and our poor kid never gets to have face paint or fun snacks.
– Ashley Mendenhall 

5. Noisemakers, glowsticks

If it’s during the day, noisemakers are fun for the kids: cowbells and kazoos. At night: dollar store glow in the dark necklaces and bracelets. If it’s warm, we love our clip-on fans for the stroller. Bring child-friendly bowls for the Pioneer Day Bean Feed. It’s always easier for my kids to eat if they eat from familiar plates. – Jennifer Garibay 

6. Headphones and hats

If your kiddos are on the sensitive side with environments, headphones can help. Hats also help to narrow the visual overwhelm. If you are afraid of losing kids, write your phone number on their arm! And pack a lot of patience! – Sherrie Medinger Fabricius

7. Baskets or bags

(If the) parade throws candy, something to put it in is helpful! – Jacqueline Clark

8. Backpack chairs

For sure a wagon for the kids, an umbrella for shade and or rain, and lots of snacks and yummy things. I bring a chair I can carry on my back. And, if ever possible, always take chairs early to drop off. -Trish Juarez

9. Sit Near the Start

When you pick a spot, plan for where the sun will be an hour later. Sometimes spots that start out sunny end up shaded or at least with the sun not straight in your eye, lol. I like to find a spot close to the beginning of the parade before the Downtown Park if some of the older tractors break down, which makes the parade longer at the end of the route.  – Valerie Gilliss 

10. Sit close to a restroom

I try to be close to a bathroom because my potty-trained toddlers have to go a million times. We also take the wagon or stroller for all three kids with lots of snacks and their water bottles  – Shannon Tamplin Schomp