WEBSTER GROVES • The locals say it has to be a record.
On Sunday, a set of four chairs boldly appeared along the street a full nine days before the Webster Groves Fourth of July parade.
The seats turned up, tied down with a rope, in the 300 block of Lockwood Avenue near the start of the parade route. It’s prime real estate for the best view and maximum amount of candy thrown their way, locals say.
Setting chairs out before the parade has become an unofficial Webster Groves tradition. Every year, empty seats line the streets days before the event. But it’s never started this early, as far as anyone can remember.
By Wednesday morning, an additional 12 chairs appeared on the street a few yards away, now six days before the parade.
“It’s Webster’s version of the ‘Christmas creep,” said Bob Freeman, who has lived for 22 years in the house directly across the street from the first chairs to appear. “It really is a phenomenon.”
Most people in the community seem to have an opinion on the increasingly early chairs.
“It’s so Webster Groves,” said Jillian Bhuyan, 16. “We have a lot of very eager people here. And, like, people are just really into the parade.”
Others find it obnoxious.
“I think it should be first-come, first serve,” said Deborah Ladd, who works in the Webster Groves Public Library, which is near the start of the parade route. “It’s a public parade. Is this really necessary? In a day or two, they’ll be all lined up blocking the front of the library.”
“I just think it’s funny,” said Paige Shaw, who grew up in Webster Groves. “Last year I heard some people actually pulled their couch out on the side of the road to watch.”
Early chair setters argue it’s necessary.
“My wife sets out the chairs a few days early every year,” said resident David Frank. “You have to if you want a spot. It gets packed.”
This year’s parade, with the theme “Webster Groves — A City of Neighbors and Friends,” is expected to draw thousands of spectators the morning of July Fourth.
But until the parade, the chairs remain at the center of local chatter, including on social media.
The Webster Groves Police Department even got into the discussion Tuesday, posting to Facebook: “ChairWatch 2017....it has begun,” with a photo of the first chairs.
Later that day, a joke ad appeared on the website Craigslist with a photo of the seats and the label “free chairs.”
“I littered them all along the upcoming parade route for the Fourth of July,” the ad reads. “Don’t worry. Take as many as you want.”
Still, whoever set out their chairs nine days early remains a mystery.
“I guess we’ll find out on parade day,” said Tom Cooper, director of the Webster Groves Public Library.
Cooper said he thinks the chair tradition may be quirky but also shows a lot of positive things about Webster Groves.
In his 13 years working in the community, for example, he’s never heard of any of the chairs being stolen, Cooper said.
“I mean if this is the biggest controversy you have all year in your community,” Cooper said. “I think you live in a pretty nice place.”