North Georgia's largest parade will honor veterans past and present on Monday, and a star-spangled concert Monday night will continue the celebration.
Starting at 10 a.m. Monday, more than 50 floats, marching bands and other groups will make their way down Green Street, take a left on E.E. Butler and another turn onto Spring Street. Then, a barbecue and more entertainment will continue the festivities at Courthouse Square, just off the downtown Gainesville square.
"We've got 30 or 40 entrants, and some of them have 40 or 50 people involved," said parade co-chairman Dave Dellinger of the Paul E. Bolding American Legion Post 7. There will be a horse-drawn wagon to honor deceased war veterans, and other parade participants include a contingent of Korean War veterans, the Disabled American Veterans, the National Guard, members of the Lanierland Old Car Club and local politicians.
"I'm still getting calls for people who want to be in the parade," Dellinger said. "It's gonna be big."
This year's parade is in honor of Gene Shadburn, who began organizing it six years ago. Shadburn, the former commander of the Paul E. Bolding Post, died last year while returning from the American Legion's National Convention in Nevada.
Also on Monday afternoon, members of the James E. Willis VFW Post 8452 will be passing out flags to parade watchers, and will later hold a barbecue and open house at their new building at 1955 Delta Drive in Gainesville, off Browns Bridge Road. Quartermaster Tim Hopton, a veteran of the Marines who served in Afghanistan, said this is a chance for people to see the new building and meet the members - and maybe recruit some new ones.
"We're trying to get the word out to the younger veterans," Hopton said. "We've signed up more Vietnam veterans. My biggest challenge is trying to get the younger members in here."
Hopton added that the VFW helps veterans work through red tape to get benefits and find out about programs they might be entitled to. Plus, the group has taken on many community activities and is becoming more active in the community.
"After the parade we meet at the post and ... we go down to several retirement homes and visit with the veterans who are homebound," he said. "When we come back we start celebrating.
"This is a community event, so we are opening up our post to members of the community, to find out about the VFW and different programs we have for the veterans."
On Monday evening, the Northwinds Symphonic Band will present a tribute to veterans with "Uncommon Valor," a program of music and patriotic presentations.
The concert will feature special appearances by Vietnam veteran Jeff Gore, retired U.S. Marine and Pearl Harbor survivor Mack Abbott and a tribute to Shadburn. Soloists are Michelle Martin and Bill Killmeier.
The event is free and begins at 7:30 p.m. Monday at First Baptist Church in Gainesville.