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How to Carry a Flag in a Parade: A Complete Guide

Published on
May 16, 2024 at 11:14:55 AM PDT May 16, 2024 at 11:14:55 AM PDTth, May 16, 2024 at 11:14:55 AM PDT

Parades are a fun and exciting event that brings communities together. The floats, bands, and displays captivate the imagination. A popular sight to see are American flags atop floats and held with pride by attendees. 


With so many people flying the United States flag, proper flag etiquette is essential during times of celebration. Respecting our most revered national symbol honors and unites the American people. 


Whether you’re part of a local veteran’s group, a first responder, in the school band, or any other organization, it’s essential that you follow the U.S. Flag Code. For those who are preparing for a parade, this blog offers tips for proper flag etiquette and displaying and carrying Old Glory. 


Explore our full line of parade flagpoles, crafted from the finest materials to ensure your parade flag displays are unforgettable. In-stock products ship out from our warehouse within one business day! 


How to Carry a Flag in a Parade 


The national flag is a source of pride for all Americans, which is why displaying it properly is so important. During parades, numerous organizations carry the flag, including the American Legion, Honor Guard, Chaplains, the VFW, members of the armed forces, military personnel, and more. 


Many of these participants served their country, giving the flag an even deeper meaning. To honor them and those who came before, every parade participant should take extra care to treat the ensign with the respect it deserves. Let’s explore the display of the flag guidelines laid out in the U.S. Flag Code. 


Place the U.S. Flag in a Position of Honor 


To place the flag of the United States of America in a place of honor means it’s to the right of the Color Guard when facing forward. In other words, the U.S. flag is on the observer’s left when they're facing the flag bearer. It’s also appropriate to place it in the center of the flag line. 


While it’s fine to display the U.S. flag by itself, you can also carry it alongside state or armed forces flags. All state flags should be to the observer’s left of the national flag. 


U.S. military flags should follow their historically traditional order, starting with the Army and followed by the Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard. Learn more about the order of military flags in our blog, “How to Properly Display Military Branch Flags.”  


You shouldn’t hoist the American flag higher than the surrounding flags in the formation unless the height or waist level of the color bearers are so different that their color harness sockets sit at different levels. Only raise the flag enough to maintain an even height. Most importantly, the American flag should never stand lower than the other flags, including flags of other nations. 


Carry Your Flags Upright 


We often see flags flying at an angle on the side of buildings and porches, but that’s not the correct display method during parades. The U.S. flag should always be held upright and aloft during parades. It should never dip to any person or thing, except in certain ceremonial situations like military salutes that don’t typically happen during community parades. You can choose to hold the flag completely upright or slightly titled forward, as long as it doesn’t fall over the staff. 


Carrot-Top offers ultra-durable parade carrying belts built with the holder’s comfort in mind. Crafted from engineered plastic, they’re available in seven varieties in both single and double straps. 


Do Not Display on Floats or Draped on Vehicles 


The American flag is a great symbol of national pride and should never be used as a decorative cloth. While draping the flag may seem like a good way to showcase your patriotism, it’s actually considered very disrespectful. Draping the U.S. flag fails to give it the prominence it deserves and can cause it to become dirty, sat on, or even torn.  


Instead, you should display the flag on a parade float by hanging it from a staff. Displaying the flag vertically makes it more prominent and visible from a distance. 


Fender flags are a great alternative to draping if you want to fly the flag on a vehicle. These durable mounted flags align with proper flag etiquette and create respectful displays during Independence Day, Memorial Day, and Flag Day parades.  


Another excellent alternative to draping is to add American flag bunting to your parade float. These vibrant and colorful additions are a great way to display your patriotism without the potential of violating the U.S. flag code or disrespecting our beloved national ensign. 


What is the Authorized Formation for Color Guards? 


Even though community parades are not required to maintain military standards for Color Guards, they often observe similar rules to ensure that the American flag and any other flags are respected appropriately. 


The standards used in military color guards provide a framework that can be adapted to suit the less formal settings of community events. For example, while the military Color Guard must adhere to strict uniform, marching, and flag-handling protocols, parade participants can implement the rules in accordance with the event and local traditions. However, following official Color Guard rules is the perfect way to ensure respectful flag handling. 


Color Guards are at least a three-person team, with one holding the flag and two carrying rifles. A three-man team is the minimum to maintain official protocol, but four-man teams are preferred. 


You can pair any American flag with a state, city, or organization flag, and some parades choose to feature international and military ensigns. When scouting organizations are included, flying the Boy Scouts of America flag is appropriate and a great way to include the community. Just be sure the U.S., state, and military flags are on the right hand (observer’s left) of the Scout flags. 


When choosing which flags to carry in a parade, select ones that reflect the message and theme of the event. Remember, each military branch has its own Color Guard standards, and you can learn more about these protocols on drillmaster.org.  


Showing Proper Respect During Parades 


When you see the American flag at a parade, whether it’s during the national anthem, pledge of allegiance, or in passing, the correct etiquette is to stand, remove your hat, place your right hand over your heart, and stop all conversations. You don’t have to follow this protocol for small handheld or stick flags. 


What Items Can I Use to Display the Flag? 


To properly display the national flag, we recommend these products: 


  • Flagpole - Flagpoles allow you to display the flag prominently and visibly. When selecting one for your parade, make sure you choose one that’s the appropriate height and material. Our hardwood guidon staff is the perfect option since it’s made from durable Ash hardwood and topped with a brass or chrome army-style spear. Choose from four size options for the ideal parade flag display.
  • Fringed U.S. Flag - Our fringed U.S. flags are crafted from 100% nylon and feature embroidered stars and stripes. The gold fringe is perfect for parades, and the pole sleeve makes attaching it to a flagpole easy. Choose from six sizes and two finishes. These flags are proudly made in the U.S.A.
  • Carrying Belts - Carry your flag with ease with our durable flagpole carrying belts. These fully adjustable accessories are crafted from sturdy polypropylene and are available in seven sizes.
  • Parade Gloves - Look sharp in our durable cotton parade gloves. Featuring 3-row stitching and an open cuff, they’re breathable and look great all day long. Available in three size options, they’re the perfect choice for parades, marching bands, Honor Guard, and Color Guard ceremonies.


Our Flag Pros are at Your Service 


Our Flag Pros are standing by to answer any questions you may have and help you choose the perfect flag and accessories for your next parade. 

Turn heads at the next parade with our U.S. Majestic™ Flag Set. Available in three flagpole colors and two sizes, each set includes a Beacon® nylon flag with gold fringe, cord, 5” tassel, telescopic pole, and gold eagle finial. It’s the perfect option for parades, events, and indoor use.