Flags can play a prominent role in parades, and there are specific etiquette rules that must be followed in order to handle flags properly. These guidelines can be especially important during holidays like the Fourth of July, Labor Day and Memorial Day, when the American flag may be a central feature in the parade. Some tips can ensure the flag is displayed and kept in a respectful manner.
Where the American flag is carried in a parade depends on who is carrying the flag and whether or not there are other flags displayed. If a group of marchers is accompanying the flag, the head marcher must carry the flag so that it is ahead of the group. If there are flags from other countries represented, the U.S. flag must also be the lead flag. Whoever carries the flag must hold it either in the center of their body or toward their right shoulder.
It is traditional for the American flag to be accompanied by a military color guard in a parade. This group of uniformed marchers follows behind the flag, marching in a concise manner. Those in uniform must always face the flag for this procession, with heads facing straight ahead. A military color guard also can help raise the flag up a flagpole at the end of the parade.
Saluting the flag during a parade is a typical way to show respect. One salutes the American flag as it passes by, and it is especially traditional for those in uniform and former members of the military to salute as well. If there is more than one flag in the parade, it is only necessary to salute the first one as it passes by. Also, individuals can choose to place their hand over their heart instead of saluting.
Hanging the Flag
At the end of a parade, it is traditional to run the flag up a flagpole, sometimes in front of a city civic center or town hall. The flag should fly at the very top of the pole--unless it is decided that the flag will fly at half-staff to signify a mourning period--and should fly vertical to the floor. The side with the stars should be on the north side if hanging on an east-to-west street, or to the east on a north-to-south street.
Putting the Flag Away
There are also etiquette rules to follow when it is time to put the flag away following the parade. It is traditional for two people to participate in folding the flag, and they should follow the proper steps to fold it into the shape of a triangle. The flag is also usually placed in a triangle-shaped box and stored in a dark space to prevent fading.
- American Flag image by dwight9592 from Fotolia.com