Ann Arbor Jaycees Fourth of July Parade Tips

We love the Ann Arbor Jaycees Fourth of July Parade. I have had the experience of enjoying the parade both as a participant and as a spectator.

Ann Arbor Jaycees Fourth of July Parade - Handing out Candy

General Parade Information

Fourth of July Parade Route

The Ann Arbor Jaycees Fourth of July Parade route is almost 1 mile and composes 3.5 sides of a rectangle. It starts heading north on State Street at William, turns west on Liberty, turns south on Main Street, and returns east on William ending at Thompson. Staging areas for the parade are on State St between William and S. University, William to Thompson, Thompson north to Liberty, and Maynard from Liberty to Jefferson, and Thompson from William to Liberty. The only vehicles that will be allowed past the road blockades are those participating in the parade.

Road Closures

Before the parade is the Firecracker 5K (starts at 8:15a) which means additional road closures. Fortunately, most of the race is along the parade route and staging area resulting in minimal additional closures. Mainly the additional closure is on South University (which has it’s own construction) and the Diag across campus. For spectators, the race should not affect your ability to get to the parade. Participants arriving early may need to plan extra care.


I know the map says 2016, but the 2018 map is the same.

Getting to the Parade

Your options to get to the parade are driving, bicycling, and walking. TheRide bus service does not operate on Fourth of July.



University of Michigan does not enforce parking regulations on Independence Day. So, University lots are a great place to park. Since we arrive from the south, we typically park in the university garage on Thompson St. Note that city & university lots on the inside of the race/parade route (i.e. the Maynard or library lot garages and the UM visitor lot at Thompson & William) will not be available during the race/parade. Parking suggestions:

  • UM Structures
    • Thompson – Thompson between Jefferson & Madison
    • Thayer (note this lot often charges for parking) – Thayer between Washington and North University
    • Fletcher (note this lot often charges for parking) – Fletcher between Washington and North University
  • DDA lots/structures
    • William & Ashley
    • 1st and Huron
    • Ann Garage – Ann & Ashley
  • Courthouse lot at Ann & 4th

Spectator Tips

The parade is LONG. The past couple of years, my husband and I watched the parade near the start. I just checked the timestamp on my photos – first and last groups. The 2015 parade was 53 minutes long. Surprisingly the 2016 parade was only 43 minutes long – typically election year parades are longer. The 2017 parade was 41 minutes long. The parade may take longer if you are near the end of the route. Some groups spread out more over the course of the parade.

Check out our review of the 2015 Parade.


With such a long parade route, the timing varies based on where you are watching the parade. From the time stamps on several years of photos, it takes about 30 minutes from the start line to the end line. If you are watching on State St, the parade will start at 10a and run until around 11a. If you are watching from Main St, I would expect the parade to pass you starting around 10:15a.

Ann Arbor Jaycees Parade - The End

Where to Watch Ann Arbor Jaycees Fourth of July Parade

In my opinion there is no one perfect place to watch the Ann Arbor Jaycees Fourth of July Parade. There are so many factors that go into selecting where to watch – shade, crowds, escapability, and candy – that the balance will be different for each person.


If you might need to leave before the parade ends or want to meet up with a participant, you’ll need to factor the route into your seating plan. If you want to be able to leave, it is best to sit on the outside of the rectangle. As parents of a participant, we like to watch from early in the parade route and then meet up with her at the end of the route. So, it is easier to watch from the inside of the rectangle or near the start line where we can cross.

Avoid the Crowds

It’s been a few years since I walked the parade route. When I walked the route, the most crowded areas were Main Street followed closely by the outside of the turn from State St to Liberty. William Street is usually the least crowded place to watch the parade, but will fill in as the parade ends and participants find spots on William to watch the rest of the parade. When we first joined the parade in 2009, Liberty was virtually empty but by 2014 (the last year I walked the parade), it was pretty full especially as you neared Main Street.


Early forecast for the Fourth of July is hot temperatures. You may want to find shade to watch the parade. The trees on the Diag and the buildings on State St provide good shade. You can also find shade on Main St.


Many parade groups will pass out candy or other goodies. If you want candy, you are better to watch from earlier in the route. If you want to minimize the amount of candy your kids get, it is better to watch the parade closer to the end of the parade route. 

I love this photo of my daughter handing out candy at age 3. She had to stop at each kid and they quickly fell behind our group. They caught up once they ran out of a huge bucket of candy before Liberty Street.

Ann Arbor Jaycees Fourth of July Parade - Handing Out Candy


Are you watching the parade with someone with limited mobility? Your best bet will be to watch the parade from somewhere that you can drop them off near the parade route and then go park your car. I also suggest watching from the shade and in a less crowded area so that they have room to setup a chair. 

What to Bring to Ann Arbor Fourth of July Parade

Yes, even as spectators you should come to the parade prepared. At a minimum I would bring a bag for candy/literature/goodies. If you have multiple children, separate bags may be a good idea to prevent fighting over who the goodies belong to. It may also be worth bringing a separate bag to recycle all the political handouts you’ll get that can go straight in the recycling bin when you get home – especially if you’re like me and don’t live in the city of Ann Arbor and aren’t eligible to vote for most of the candidates.

Prepare to be outside for over an hour. I suggest sun screen and water bottles at a minimum.

On Main Street, I suggest being prepared to stand, sit on the curb, or sit in restaurant chairs. In other locations, you usually have room to setup your own chair if you want.


  • Bag for candy/goodies
  • Sunscreen
  • Water Bottles to stay hydrated in the heat
  • Chairs (depending on where you watch)


We have participated in the Ann Arbor Jaycees Fourth of July Parade since 2009. We started participating with my daughter’s preschool, then with the Girl Scouts.

Join the Parade

If your child wants to participate and does not belong to a group who is signed up, they can still participate. Kids are welcome to decorate their bike and then ride in the parade with the Jaycees group. Parents are welcome to accompany them on foot or bike. Note there is no bike decorating contest this year, but the group will still be marching.

Ann Arbor Jaycees Fourth of July Bike Decorating Contest

What to Wear

Participants are encouraged to dress either for their organization or in Red White and Blue. My daughter used to wear a preschool t-shirt, but now she usually wears a patriotic t-shirt instead of a Girl Scouts shirt (but will add her uniform vest over it sometimes).

Ann Arbor Jaycees Fourth of July Parade

Most importantly, participants should dress for the weather and wear comfortable walking shoes. Sunscreen is also a must!

What to Bring

Participants should bring a water bottle. Participants are permitted to hand out candy, goodies, and literature. Note, you may not throw candy, it must be handed out or dropped at the curb. If this is the first time you are participating, I suggest bringing double the amount of candy you think you’ll need – seriously in 2009, the candy below did not last past State St. A wagon is extremely helpful in handling water bottles and candy/goodies for your group.

Ann Arbor Fourth of July Parade - Not Enough Candy

If you are bringing candy, I have a few recommendations. We usually use a combination of lollipops, Twizzlers, Tootsie Rolls, Air Heads, hard candy, etc. We avoid chocolates which can melt and tend to have more allergen issues than some of the others.

Handing Out Candy/Goodies Tips

If you are handing out candy or other goodies at the parade, the parade rules prohibit you from throwing the items. You can drop candy near the curb which is the method that I recommend. The first year that we participated, my 3.5 year old handed candy out one by one to everyone along the route not wanting to miss anyone on her side of the street. Our big bucket of candy barely made it past State St. Additionally, the process was very slow – she and Dad ended up about 6 groups behind ours (I was in the front of our group carrying the sign).

Other Fourth of July Ann Arbor Fourth of July Celebrations


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Anna Mae

Anna Mae owns & operates Ann Arbor with Kids, a website dedicated to Family Activities in Ann Arbor. My husband and I moved to Ann Arbor in 2003 and our daughter joined the family in 2006.

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