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This Memorial Day tradition is set to return to Gainesville’s Green Street
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A color guard leads the 2019 Memorial Day parade sponsored by Gainesville’s American Legion Paul E. Bolding Post 7. - photo by Scott Rogers
2022 Memorial Day Parade

When: 10 a.m. May 30

Where: Starting at First Baptist Church of Gainesville, 751 Green St., and ending at Bank of America, 402 Washington St.

More info: gainesvilleamericanlegion.org 

Memorial Day has been a quiet affair on Gainesville’s Green Street in recent years owing to the COVID-19 pandemic — but no longer. 

After a two-year hiatus, the Memorial Day parade is slated to once again cover the thoroughfare in red, white and blue.

Street closures are slated to begin at 8:30 a.m., with the parade to commence at 10 a.m. at First Baptist Church of Gainesville. The route will continue down Green Street and E.E. Butler Parkway, turning onto Spring Street and concluding at the Bank of America building.

According to Andre Castleberry, senior vice commander of the American Legion Paul E. Bolding Post 7 in Gainesville, this year marks the organization’s 18th year presenting the parade. While it’s a sizable undertaking, he’s excited to see the tradition make a comeback and pay tribute to the nation’s fallen heroes.

“I want (the community) to, one, be happy about the parade coming back and being able to celebrate those family members, friends or veterans that they know of who are no longer with us,” Castleberry said. “People kind of confuse Memorial Day with Veterans Day — Veterans Day is about honoring our active duty members or veterans, but Memorial Day is for those that made the ultimate sacrifice and for those veterans who’ve passed on.”

Castleberry noted the Legion recently lost one of its own active members, Horace Smallwood.

Smallwood served in the U.S. Army and fought in World War II, according to his May 18 obituary, and was seen in many a Memorial Day parade alongside his brothers and fellow veterans, John and Howell, before their own deaths in 2019 and 2020, respectively.

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The Smallwood brothers participate in the annual Memorial Day parade Monday, May 27, 2019, along Green Street. From left the World War II veterans are John, Howell and Horace. - photo by Scott Rogers

At 96, Castleberry said Horace Smallwood was one of the community’s oldest veterans and will be honored during the upcoming parade.

“It’s a loss — there’s a void there with Horace being gone,” Castleberry said. “That’s why, with (the parade) not being done the last couple of years, I think it’s going to be extra special this year. Our community is very veteran-heavy. (The parade) is a part of our history in Gainesville; I think it’s important for it to happen.”

Having served 23 years in the U.S. Navy’s submarine force, honoring fallen service members in such a way holds personal significance for Castleberry.

“Remember what it’s all about: celebrating our veterans that have passed on and showing the pride and freedoms that we have as Americans,” he said. “I think that’s one thing that’s missing in our country; some people have forgotten how great our country is and the freedoms that we have and the people that fought to provide those freedoms for us. We really need to recognize and celebrate those people.”

Castleberry added, “I’ll probably be emotional on the day of the parade knowing I had a hand in putting it together and seeing it come together. Seeing all of the veterans and vehicles of people in uniform, it just makes you feel proud.”