After storms canceled last year’s big event, the annual Memorial Day parade in Gainesville returned Monday in full vigor, with veterans streaming down sun-baked Green Street amid fluttering flags and loud claps of applause.
The parade, sponsored by the Paul E. Bolding American Legion Post 7 on Riverside Drive, kicked off with Tony Manzo of Gainesville flying his bright yellow Boeing-made P-17 Stearman biplane over the crowd, which had packed both sides of Green Street.
Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, the grand marshal, led the parade, which ran from First Baptist Church to E.E. Butler Parkway, then traveled a short distance before ending at Spring Street.
Vehicles of all kinds — antique cars, Jeeps and trucks — streamed down the streets as spectators on either side waved flags and clapped their hands.
“Thank y’all so much,” Michael Harkins of Gainesville shouted as a group of World War II veterans passed by and as he reached out to shake the hand of one of the men.
Harkins attended the parade with his wife and two children.
“I think it’s my patriotic duty to come out and give the veterans my support,” he said.
World War II veterans were at the front of the parade, followed by veterans in other wars.
While many waved at the crowd from cars, Cecil Boswell of Gainesville strode by himself wearing the U.S. Army uniform he wore when he was discharged after World War II.
Signs on vehicles described the occupants.
Lloyd Stone fought in North Africa and Italy during World War II. Art Lueptow was recognized with the simple “Normandy to Berlin” — a nod to the Allied invasion on the Normandy coast to the fall of Germany’s capitol to the Allies.
The parade also served to honor police and firefighters.
Bobby and Joyce Jones of Gainesville said they attend the parade every year.
“We really enjoy it,” Joyce Jones said.
“We’ve very patriotic. We love our country,” said Bobby Jones, whose uncle was missing in action in Korea and later declared dead.
Joel Kerby found a place early in front of the Green Street post office with his daughter, Beth Wilmont, and her two children, 9-year-old Devony and 3-year-old Courtney.
“The children wanted to see the parade,” Kerby said. “This is Courtney’s first one.”
Kerby said that for him, Memorial Day holds a special meaning.
“This is a good time to remember our vets and say a prayer for those fighting for our freedom,” he said. “I hope (Memorial Day) will never be taken lightly.”