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Working Mom's Musings: Turf Wars: Not just a big city problem

Each year as the River Falls Days parade draws near, the parade route gets littered with caution tape, tarps, blankets, and lawn chairs.

This year was no exception, with the first spot claimed sometime on Sunday...a whole five days prior to the popular event.

And while the “spot saving” is quaint, some people can take it to an extreme — blocking off huge tracts of public property so that each member of the party can be curbside or rushing out more than a few days ahead of time to get the “perfect’ spot.

It almost turns the annual event into a turf war.

My family and I tend to gravitate towards the same spot every year — across the street from Ezekiel Church. I am not sure why we go there, or why we stay, but it has suited us well for many years.

Grandpa (my dad) is in charge of selecting the spot and throwing down the “spot saving’ sheet — we learned the hard way not to use a tarp or heavy blankets. City workers discourage the use of tarps and the like since it kills the grass.

We have also learned that some people are very protective of their spots and have been involved in our own version of a “turf war.”

A few years ago I packed up the kids and headed to our spot along the parade route, while my husband parked the car. The kids were bubbling with excitement because it was the first River Falls Days parade for their new baby sister.

So with a three-month-old in a stroller, a four-year-old by the hand and a seven-year-old trotting alongside me, we weaved our way through the throngs of parade goers.

When we arrived at our spot we were greeted by an irate woman who accused me of stealing her spot. Having no idea what she was talking about, I told her that we had not stolen it.

After telling her that she was mistaken and yes, arguing with her a bit, she continued to insist that we did in fact steal “her” spot.

The woman, who had a large area blocked off for her family and friends, continued to argue, yell, and berate. At some point my husband showed up and I suggested we just head home.

Finally her husband came over, accused us of “stealing” their spot and ‘suggested’ that we could just have it.

When my parents showed up, they asked the man if he used a tarp to hold the spot, he said he did. My parents said that maybe the city took the tarp and that there was no way we would know that it was their spot if their tarp had been removed..

He seemed satisfied, but his irate wife, not so much. Between the glares and nasty comments throughout the length of the parade, we were fairly sure she held a grudge.

At the parade’s conclusion, they came over and demanded we give them the tent stakes we used to secure our sheet to the ground, since they were convinced we had not only stolen their spot but used their tent stakes to attach our sheet to the ground.

They said since we stole their spot, the least we could do was give them back their tent spikes. So, to keep the calm, my husband gave her our tent spikes. No sense arguing with her, and, besides, we just stopped at Shopko and got another set.

Now, most years, we run into friendly River Falls citizens, people who don’t hold so tight to their spot that they accuse people of theft.

But the spot claiming does take what should be a neighborly gathering and turn it into a turf war duel.

So when you head down to River Falls Days, loosen up a bit, don’t get all fired up and engage in turf wars with your neighbor. Invite a child whose parents maybe didn’t “claim” a spot to sit on the curb so they can see the parade.

Squeeze in a bit — adults don’t need a curbside vantage point — that way neighbors and visitors that didn’t get out during the week can see.

And lastly, respect your neighbor...since they may very well rehash your turf war argument in the local paper.

Jillian Dexheimer
Jillian Dexheimer has been a copy editor and reporter for the River Falls Journal since 2011. She previously worked for the River Falls Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Bureau. Dexheimer holds a sociology degree from UW-River Falls.
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