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Canonsburg to vote on curbing parade viewers' chairs

| Thursday, Oct. 4, 2012, 9:27 a.m.

Canonsburg residents who have been on the edge of their seats about the fate of a longtime borough tradition to claim prime viewing spots for the Fourth of July parade weeks in advance could have an answer on Monday.

Borough council will vote on a plan to allow residents to place chairs along the route two days in advance. The plan is a compromise on an earlier decision to ban chairs until the day of the parade.

“When you think about Canonsburg, you think, ‘Fourth of July,'” said Councilman Joseph McGarry, 67. “We're a small town of 8,000 people, but there is a lot of pride.”

Each Fourth of July, parade-goers place chairs of all styles, many decorated, along the route as early as the third week of June to secure spots. In response to a request from borough police Chief R.T. Bell involving safety concerns, the council in July voted to ban chairs from the sidewalks until 6 a.m. July 4.

The decision sparked strong reactions from some residents, prompting council to revisit the issue. On Monday, council will vote on a compromise to permit chairs to be placed along the route beginning at 6 a.m. July 2.

The Fourth of July parade, billed by organizers as the state's second-largest behind Philadelphia's, draws thousands of people. Some residents attach chairs to trees with chains to secure the best spots. Others mark off half-block areas with rope.

“I love the chairs,” said Anthony Colaizzo, 82, of Canonsburg, who helped found the parade 50 years ago. “The chairs are a symbol of tradition.”

Borough officials expressed concerns about the chairs potentially obstructing firefighters, police and EMS crews, in addition to making sidewalks difficult to navigate for people with disabilities. They also can blow into the street during storms.

Canonsburg Mayor David Rhome said, “The concern has always been safety” regarding the chairs.

“When you have 60,000 or 70,000 people in town, everybody wants a front seat,” he said, adding that the two-day rule will “help out tremendously.”

Colaizzo, who remains a member of the Fourth of July parade committee, said he takes daily walks through town and never had a problem in getting around the chairs.

Shortly after council's July decision, a Facebook page called “Save the Canonsburg Parade Chairs” popped up. It had 265 “likes” as of Wednesday.

Rachel Weaver is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7948 or rweaver@tribweb.com.

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