Fresno’s Vet­er­ans Day pa­rade, the largest in the coun­try, will be held Mon­day in hopes of draw­ing big crowds.

The Fresno Bee - - Front Page - BY ASH­LEIGH PANOO apanoo@fres­ Ash­leigh Panoo: 559-441-6010, @Ash­leighPan

The largest Vet­er­ans Day pa­rade in the coun­try will march along down­town Fresno on Mon­day, and the or­ga­niz­ers be­hind it are work­ing hard to make sure no one misses it.

This is the first year in re­cent mem­ory that the pa­rade isn’t be­ing held on Nov. 11, the of­fi­cial hol­i­day, ac­cord­ing to Daniel Payne, pres­i­dent of the Vet­er­ans Pa­rade staff. In­stead, the pa­rade will be held the next day, when a lot of peo­ple will have the day off of work for the fed­eral hol­i­day, and high school bands and ROTC pro­grams will send their kids over to par­tic­i­pate.

The de­ci­sion wasn’t easy, Payne said, but he be­lieves it was the right one. In the past, the pa­rade has strug­gled when Vet­er­ans Day has fallen on a Sun­day.

“We stuck to our guns (in the past) and said we were gonna do it on (Sun­day) be­cause that’s the day that it fell on, but our par­tic­i­pa­tion was less than half, and our spec­ta­tors were less than half. I felt it was more dis­re­spect­ful to our vet­er­ans to have a medi­ocre pa­rade than to move it to an­other date when it’s na­tion­ally hon­ored.”

The pa­rade is tele­vised on KSEE 24 lo­cally, and in the past, the Pen­tagon Chan­nel has broad­cast the pa­rade to mil­i­tary hous­ing around the world. Payne said it has a reach of 72 mil­lion house­holds. “We are the only world­wide tele­vised or mar­keted vet­er­ans pa­rade and we have been for at least 10 years,” he said. This year, De­part­ment of De­fense News will take over, Payne added.

The pa­rade be­gan in 1919 and only took a break dur­ing World War II.

“A lot of peo­ple were gone and peo­ple didn’t feel like it was worth cel­e­brat­ing be­cause we were in the mid­dle of the war,” Payne said. “But af­ter WWII, it picked up again and it just came back like gang­busters.”

Payne said when he got in­volved over 15 years ago, the pa­rade was the third largest, fol­low­ing be­hind New York and Las Ve­gas. “We were the largest west of the Mis­sis­sippi for a long time,” he said. “Now we’ve been told we’re the largest.”

The pa­rade is cel­e­brat­ing 99 years since its in­cep­tion and this year’s theme honors the Air Force. The 144th Fighter Wing is send­ing an F-15 for a fly­over, Payne said, and the grand mar­shal is Re­tired Lt. Col. Larry Duba, who served in the Air Force Re­serve. Open­ing re­marks be­gin at 10:15 a.m. and the pa­rade steps off at 11:11 a.m.

This year will see an in­crease in par­tic­i­pants and will fea­ture fire­works dur­ing the na­tional an­them. Payne rec­om­mends spec­ta­tors, who usu­ally num­ber 20,000 or more, ar­rive be­fore 9:30 to get a space.

Be­hind the scenes, Payne and other or­ga­niz­ers have been work­ing 8 hours a day cre­at­ing the pa­rade nar­ra­tive and plac­ing each par­tic­i­pant (there are be­tween 4,000 and 6,000 peo­ple in the pa­rade) in the right spot.

He said or­ga­niz­ers are still in need of vol­un­teers for Mon­day morn­ing to make sure ev­ery­thing runs smoothly.

“We can never have enough vol­un­teers,” he said.

Any­one in­ter­ested in vol­un­teer­ing can con­tact Vir­ginia Car­di­nal, the di­rec­tor and pa­rade co­or­di­na­tor, at fres­

Or­ga­niz­ers have al­ready be­gun plan­ning for the cen­ten­nial pa­rade, in which they plan to honor all branches of the mil­i­tary. Payne said it’s go­ing to be even larger than this year’s pa­rade.

Payne, a re­tired Ma­rine who served in Viet­nam and Op­er­a­tion Desert Storm as a Bat­tal­lion Main­te­nance Of­fi­cer, hopes the date change this year will be a pos­i­tive one and bring more peo­ple out to watch.

“Were con­stantly try­ing to im­prove our pa­rade,” he said. “We’re con­stantly try­ing to give our vet­er­ans more honor. More re­spect.”

CRAIG KOHLRUSS ck­ohlruss@fres­

Swen­trol Har­vey, left, Paul De­meree and other vet­er­ans from the Fresno Vet Cen­ter carry a gi­ant U.S. flag down Fresno Street dur­ing the an­nual Vet­er­ans Day Pa­rade in down­town Fresno on Nov. 11, 2017. The pa­rade be­gan in 1919 and only took a break dur­ing World War II.

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