A celebration of veterans often cited as one of the oldest and largest Veterans Day observances in the United States is scheduled for Monday.
Organizers say the 93rd annual Leavenworth County Veterans Day Parade will begin at 10:30 a.m. Monday in downtown Leavenworth, the same place where residents nearly a century ago took to the streets in what newspaper accounts from the time described as a spontaneous celebration of the announcement of the Armistice agreement that effectively ended World War I. The city’s mayor at the time, John Seitz, is said to have declared a holiday on the spot. Each year since then, residents have gathered in downtown Leavenworth for the occasion and the parade has garnered a reputation of being at least the largest in the region and perhaps the largest west of the Mississippi River.
Retired Sgt. Maj. Lonnie Durand Sr., commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 56 in Leavenworth that is serving as this year’s host organization, is the parade’s chairman this year. He said about 191 entrants have signed up to participate so far. That includes marching bands, floats from veterans’ and civic groups, units and equipment from Fort Leavenworth and community leaders.
The floats will be judged and first, second and third place honors awarded based on parade theme, originality, creativity and patriotism.
This year, Durand said parade planners are emphasizing “honoring past, present and future veterans” as the theme of the event. Durand said there will be a special entry in the parade to commemorate the common bonds of those who have served in the military.
“We’ve invited veterans of all generations, and their families, to ride in that float,” he said.
According to the parade committee’s website, there are an estimated 25 million military veterans in the United States.
The grand marshal of the parade this year is Hersch Chapman, the owner of Lavery’s Jewelry downtown who enlisted in the Army in 1944 and fought in both the Korean War and later in Vietnam. Honorary grand marshals will be Anna Scarborough of Lansing, who was part of the Woman’s Army Corps during World War II and retired Master Sgt. Bill Thompson, who in World War II was recruited to be a member of the organization that became the Central Intelligence Agency.
Parade participants are being asked to begin assembling in the staging area at 9 a.m. The parade will depart from Fourth and Cherokee streets, heading east to Esplanade Street, north to Delaware Street, west to Seventh Street, south to Cherokee Street and east on Cherokee to Fifth Street, where the parade will disband.
At 11 a.m., the parade will stop for the playing of taps and an enlistment ceremony conducted in front of the parade’s reviewing stand.
Page 2 of 2 - As a result of the parade, parking is prohibited on the south side of Delaware Street between Esplanade and Seventh streets.
Before the parade, the Leavenworth Rotary Club will host a veterans breakfast from 7 to 10 a.m. at the Riverfront Community Center, 123 S. Esplanade St. in Leavenworth. At 2 p.m. Sunday, the Heritage Center, 109 Delaware St., will host an opening ceremony for the “Remembering Our Fallen” touring photo display sponsored by the Henry Leavenworth Chapter of the Association of the U.S. Army.
Since coming to Leavenworth, Durand said the parade has for him been an important tradition since both he and his son are veterans.
“It’s nice to be a part of a community where that is special,” he said.