Local Parades, Fairs, Festivals, and Car Shows on the Campaign Trail

“What value do you place on summer parades?  Does it keep name recognition up, or is it mostly a waste of time?”

I received that question from a reader last month and thought that other candidates might be interested in the answer, hence today’s winning campaign advice article.

If a parade, fair, festival, car show or what-have-you is a longtime tradition in a small community, then you as a candidates should participate.

But if you do so, you don’t necessarily need to bring flyers and signs (thought you should have them nearby). You should however definitely bring candy.

Yes, individually wrapped pieces of candy — usually something that won’t melt — that you can throw to kids along the parade route or hand out if you have a booth at a festival or fair.

Now are you going to gain a lot of votes by being there? Probably not.

That still doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be there.

In a small community where the parade means a big deal, the insiders and powers-that-be of the community will likely have a good impression if you if you fully engage and participate.

Inversely, if you skip it and your opponent is involved, those same people will likely say behind your back that you think you’re too important to be involved in their “little event.”

In a small town, that could hurt you politically.

You don’t want that.

In my small hometown of Norco, California there has been a community fair on Labor Day weekend capped off with a parade down Sixth Street on Labor Day itself longer than I’ve been alive.

Everyone running for City Council in Norco that wants to be taken seriously needs to have a booth at the fair and ride a horse in the parade.

Yes, I said “ride a horse in the parade.”

Norco may be in Southern California and less than an hour’s drive from Los Angeles, but its nickname is Horsetown U.S.A.

If you’re running for City Council in Norco, you better be riding a horse in the parade.

And you best not run out of candy before you get to the end of the route.

Even candidates running for legislative offices that represent Norco show up for the fair and the parade.

My former boss Rod Pacheco rode a horse in the Norco Labor Day Parade every year he was running for office or serving in the State Assembly.

He also participated in fair events, like Calf Dressing.

And Rod wasn’t even from Norco.

Now if you’re running for office in a more developed and less rural place than Norco, don’t dismiss parades, festivals, fairs, or the like.

Chris Mac Arthur who has served 3 terms on the Riverside City Council is a regular fixture at the annual Arlington Chili Cook-Off and Car Show in his district.

I asked Chris to comment on his participation at the Chili Cook-Off for this article. Here’s what he had to say:

“Community events, like the City of Riverside’s ‘Chili Cook Off,’ is essential for any winning candidate.

“Not only is the candidate in front of likely voters, but the event will also help to introduce the candidate to local business owners, who are potential donors.

“For over 10 years, I personally cooked chili, with my family and handed out samples to likely voters.

“After the chili was served, I manned a booth to talk directly to the voters, who were my constituents.”

You can take it from Chris Mac Arthur.

He is one of the most successful political candidates I’ve worked for.

He won a bruising primary in 2007, followed by a tough general election that year.

Chris then went on to serve two more terms in the Riverside City Council without being opposed in either of his re-election efforts.

There’s a lot of reasons for that, number one being that Chris is an extremely hard working candidate.

A close second is that he has remained close and accessible to the voters of his district for the last 12 years.

Doing local events like that Arlington Chili-Cook Off and Car Show clearly was part of his strategy to stay visible and involved with the community.

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