In recent years, Lakeville residents have gotten serious about saving spaces along the downtown route for the city’s Pan-o-Prog parade and “cruise night,” a classic car show.
So serious, in fact, that people have been known to set out chairs and blankets more than a week before the annual July 4th events, taping them down or securing them with a brick.
A new ordinance passed by the Lakeville City Council, however, will limit the practice.
That ordinance says that spots can be saved only beginning at 9 a.m. the morning of both events, which happen two days in a row. And everything must be removed by 11:59 each night.
This year, if people put their stuff out before then, city officials will take it, Mayor Matt Little said. People can then claim the items at a later date. There are no plans to give out tickets to offenders.
The new rules were needed because things were getting out of control, Little said.
“It was born out of the fact that each year people were putting chairs and tape and blankets out earlier and earlier before the cruise night and the Pan-o-Prog parade,” he said.
Sometimes, 50-foot sections of sidewalk or residents’ own yards along the Holyoke Avenue parade route would be roped off, he said.
As a result, many homeowners and business owners complained to police, he said. “Heated discussions” were reported between business owners and homeowners and the people setting up, which “really does dampen the spirit of the event.”
“It does cause some issues in front of businesses,” Little said. “It makes it harder for customers to get in and out, and it doesn’t look as good.”
The council unanimously passed the ordinance, but Little said he was initially hesitant about the idea because saving spots was a long-standing tradition. “It’s something that as a council we’re reluctant to do, but there’s got to be some parameters,” he said.
The ordinance also makes things fairer for everyone attending, he said.
Last year, 16,000 people attended the Pan-o-Prog parade, Little estimated.
Other cities with large parades also have spot-saving traditions, but they vary in terms of whether they regulate the practice.
Since 2007, Apple Valley has had a similar ordinance in place to limit spot-saving during the city’s Freedom Days parade — no reserving spots until 9 a.m. the morning of the event.
In Hopkins, however, home of the annual Raspberry Festival parade in late July, overzealous spot-saving “hasn’t been a problem,” said Jim Genellie, assistant city manager.
Some people set out chairs and blankets the night before or the morning of the parade, but generally not before then, he said.
Lakeville’s ordinance has the support of the Downtown Lakeville Business Association, as well as many area homeowners, Little said.
Erica Demo, owner of Pizazz Salon on Holyoke Avenue, supports the ordinance.
“As a business owner, I think it’s a good thing,” she said. “People would set up, you know, like five days in advance, and it made it difficult for our customers to come in and out.”
And it was even “kind of dangerous” at times, she said, with the bricks and ropes some people used.
But down the street at Perfectly Random, a home goods store, Terri Tischer said the practice “didn’t bug me at all.”
In the two summers she’s owned her business, it seemed people were claiming space only a couple of days before the events.
“I didn’t think it was a big deal, as a business owner or a citizen,” she said. “When you think about it, it says something about our festival that people want to save a spot that badly that they will put out blankets that early.”
Little said it’s the city’s responsibility to inform residents of the new policy. They plan to post signs and put notices in the local newspaper and on the city’s website, he said.
He still wants people to come out and have fun at the festivities, which have been held since the ’60s, he said.
“I don’t think [the ordinance] will affect the spirit at all,” he said. “Pan-o-Prog is a big deal down here, and I don’t think it’s going to affect turnout by any means.”