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Sunday, May 29, 2011

New Ordinance Curbs Chair Set-up before Memorial Day Parade

New Ordinance Curbs Chair Set-up before Memorial Day Parade:
Most obey guidelines 
along parade route
By Mike Lauterborn
(Posted to 5/29)
© 2011. All Rights Reserved.

Fairfield, CT – Per a new town ordinance, 10 a.m. Sunday was the official time after which people were permitted to set out their chairs and blankets curbside to watch the Memorial Day parade, set to commence exactly 24 hours later, Monday morning. Though a Patch tour of the Old Post Road found more than two dozen individual set-ups already established by that time, most of these had just been placed on Saturday. In recent years past, it was not uncommon to see equipment set up days – even a week – in advance, so it was clear the new rules had registered. As Sunday morning ticked away, vans and cars started to pull up and unload, staking claim to coveted plots.

Gay Gasser, a resident at 740 Old Post Road, said the ordinance was a good one but mostly because it gave her a chance to get some yard maintenance done. “It gave me the opportunity to get the lawn mowed,” she said. “With chairs there, I can’t do it. I also don’t like the tarps there for long, as they kill the grass. When we first moved here, in May 1985, I’d wake up the kids at 6:30 on Memorial Day morning to put our chairs out. As the years went by, other people swooped in to take the space. That’s really o.k. as we’ve got the driveway, but last year it got ridiculous, with stuff going up over a week in advance.”

Gasser added, “I can see it for the older folks, putting chairs out, or for little kids, but a day before, not a week before.”

Just pulling up to place her chairs, Fairfielder Kathy Fish said her husband may have initiated the chair-placing tradition. “David, who passed six years ago, started putting chairs out in advance about 20 years ago,” she said. “He would have all our neighbors, friends and relatives drop their chairs and blankets at our house a week in advance. We didn’t know whose stuff was whose. On the day of the parade, he would wake up at 5 a.m. and bring everyone’s chairs down here. It was a big family thing. People picked up on it but, over the years, just started coming earlier and earlier.”

Fairfielder Lynn Olins was surprised to see many chairs already set up when she pulled up just after 10 a.m. to stake her claim in front of St. Paul’s Church. “We’ve been doing this for years,” she said. “Our family always has kids that march in the parade, so we like to get a good view. I thought the ordinance was fine.”

Just establishing their own plot, the Atkins Family, who declined to give first names, also thought the ordinance was worthwhile. “If I lived along here, I’d probably get irritated with chairs being set up for days and days in advance,” said one of the family members. “We read about a month ago about the new rules and planned to come down here this morning. We found a great spot.”

The Strazar Family, of Stony Creek, CT, was o.k. with the new guidelines as well, and looked forward to the parade experience. “We raised our kids in Fairfield and marched in it for years,” said Elizabeth Strazar. “My mom’s still here and this is the first time we’ve come back in 10 years. We were planning on coming here tomorrow morning at 7 to set up, but my mom said that people were already setting up and suggested we rush down. This is a good thing as it makes the process more democratic, as everyone is setting up in the same window.”

Offering a contrasting view, Tom Brennan, the homeowner at 970 Old Post Road, thought the new ordinance was silly and a waste of money. “It’s the most ridiculous, asinine law that has been passed in the 25 years that I’ve lived here,” he said. “I have a 200-foot frontage on the Old Post, which is filled every year with friends and total strangers. Some of those total strangers have become friends. We’re asking the taxpayer to pay for the police to enforce the regulation and the town to pay for the ridiculous signs that say people can’t do it, while in a fiscal crisis with taxes out of control. All this parade does is bring smiles to everyone’s faces.”

Among the new friendships Brennan forged over the years were two couples that started showing up about 14 years ago. “They now have 14-year-old children and still continue to come here,” he said. “My house is always open for coffee and donuts.”

As Brennan returned to a yard chore, his granddaughter Ella, 5, mentioned that, this year, they would be setting up a lemonade stand out front, to raise money for Relay for Life. The stand honors Ella’s uncle Ryan, who lost his battle with cancer February 28.

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