Lawrence’s horse-drawn Old-Fashioned Christmas Parade is fantastic, except scurrying for candy in the streets can get a little messy. (Actually, don’t bother. That’s not candy, city slickers.) The St. Patrick’s Day Parade is a great tribute to the Irish and out-of-control grocery carts. And the Earth Day Parade is a reminder of what great fun we’ll have when the entire world starts riding bicycles and all yoga is free.
But despite Lawrence’s love of parades, there is one type the community hasn’t had for years: a traditional Veterans Day parade. A group of local residents plans to change that this November.
A Veterans Day parade through downtown Lawrence is set for 1 p.m. on Nov. 11, which happens to be a Saturday this year. The route will go down Massachusetts Street roughly from Seventh Street to South Park.
That’s your cue to line the streets and put your patriotism on full display. I thought I should explain because it has been a long time since Lawrence has had a Veterans Day parade. Organizers believe the last official one was in 1968.
The organizing group — which is co-chaired by American Legion member Don Weis and Lawrence Police Department employee Kim Murphree — already has the necessary parade permit from the city. Now, they’re just looking for lots and lots of veterans.
Mike Kelly, a retired Air Force colonel and member of the organizing committee, said the group is looking for anyone who has served in the U.S. Armed Forces, regardless of whether they served during a time of war.
Kelly, though, said he wants to make sure Vietnam veterans particularly feel welcomed. He said that the idea for the parade stemmed, in part, from hearing from people who knew Vietnam veterans who still struggle with the reception they received upon returning from the war.
“I think there are a number of people who now just say it has been too long,” Kelly said. “We ought to say thank you, especially to the folks who haven’t gotten a thank you. We think there are some people out there who didn’t get a thank you.”
Any veteran who wants to participate in the parade can get in touch with Murphree at firstname.lastname@example.org or can leave a message on the group’s Facebook page, which can be found at The Lawrence Veterans Day Parade.
Local car dealers are providing several vehicles for veterans to ride in, several farmers are providing large flatbed trailers for veterans, and walking the parade route also is an option, Kelly said. He said the committee will accommodate whatever needs a veteran may have.
In addition to the veterans, Kelly said organizers hope to have a military band, honor guards from the sheriff’s office, police department, fire department and other organizations, and some military vehicles from the Army Reserve or another branch.
“It will be like a Humvee or something,” Kelly said. “No M-1 tanks on Mass. That wouldn’t be good for the pavement.” (It did give me a wonderful idea, though: a candy cannon.)
Kelly said people who would like to honor a deceased veteran can provide information to the committee via the Facebook page or email address. He said the tentative plan is for posters to be made with those names.
People who are interested in volunteering also can reach out via those same means. He said people would be needed to help clean up afterward and to help near the viewing stand, where an emcee will be announcing the names of veterans.
“But the main purpose of all this is just to say thank you,” Kelly said.
Marking your calendars to do that may be the most important role you can play.
Well, I guess I won't bring my big fuzzy drum major hat downtown after all.
I had heard through the grapevine and now have confirmed that Kansas University has decided to cancel its traditional Band Day parade through downtown Lawrence. It was scheduled for Sept. 21.
Leslie O'Neil, office manager for the KU Band office, confirmed that the parade has been cancelled due to logistical problems created by KU's 11 a.m. kickoff for its game against Louisiana Tech. O'Neil stressed the halftime performance of area bands is still scheduled to continue.
But I'm sure some people will be bummed that the parade won't take place. In past years, it has seemed to draw a large crowd to downtown. But O'Neil said the early kickoff time made it difficult for the parade to happen. That's because bands need to arrive at the stadium before the parade to practice their halftime routines. NCAA regulations require that the field be available to the football teams several hours before kickoff time. So, an 11 a.m. kickoff makes it tough for bands to have enough time to practice the routine and assemble for a pre-game parade.
I believe the parade has been cancelled at least once before because of a kickoff time conflict, but I don't remember what year it was.
I just remember my hat got a lot of funny looks that year.