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Gainesville celebrates veterans during annual Memorial Day parade
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Shriner Phil Wofford gives high-fives Monday morning during the annual Memorial Day parade along Green Street in Gainesville.

From their customary spot near the Pinnacle Bank sign, Jim and Carolyn Ebert of Gainesville carried out an annual tradition Monday — watching the Memorial Day parade.

“We just enjoy the parade. It’s great,” said Jim Ebert, a Coast Guard veteran.

They were among hundreds of spectators lining Green Street for the 80-minute event featuring high school marching bands, antique cars and plenty of veterans riding in a wide variety of vehicles.

Families particularly lined the route, with parents hoisting wide-eyed children on their shoulders or otherwise giving them as close a view as possible. Youngsters also had ready access to candy as it was being tossed on the street by parade participants.

One tiny girl holding a bag of candy said, smiling, to one passerby after the event was over, “Did you know there was a parade today?”

Gainesville’s American Legion Paul E. Bolding Post 7 sponsors the parade every year, starting at First Baptist Church and traveling onto E.E. Butler Parkway past the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce.

Kicking off the event was the flyover of a bright yellow Army biplane — an aircraft used for combat in World War I and training in World War II.

Fire and police units led off the parade, with Gainesville police riding motorcycles in circles and vehicles blaring their sirens.

As veterans walked or were driven in cars along the route, spectators rose to their feet and clapped their hands. Many shouted, “Thank you!” to the veterans.

Tributes also were paid to Cecil Boswell, a World War II veteran who walked almost every year in the parade in the green wool Army outfit he was discharged in. He died Feb. 19 at 99.

The Christian-based Trail Life boys group at Boswell’s church, Montgomery Memorial Baptist Church, off West Ridge Road in Gainesville, carried a banner with his picture. The group also carried a pillow holding a hat Boswell liked to wear.

And Hall County resident Larkin “Bill” Vance, 89, who served in World War II, Korea and Vietnam, walked in Boswell’s honor, wearing a khaki special operations uniform he bought at a Braselton antique market.

The procession featured other parade staples, including Shriners riding in miniature cars and Boy and Girl Scout troops.

“There have not been many (of the parades) we have missed,” said Ricky McDaniel of Pendergrass.

“We love to come to them,” said his wife, Judy. “We brought the children, and now we’re bringing the grandchildren.”

As she spoke, she was bouncing one of the grandchildren on her knee — 8-year-old Morgan Latty, who said she especially likes the floats.

“And she likes the candy,” Judy said.

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