Thousands turn out for Veterans Day Parade
PRESCOTT - Ten-year-old Angel Morado succinctly summed up his reasons for attending Prescott's Veterans Day Parade on Tuesday.
"We want to let the veterans know that we really love and honor you," Morado said, holding one end of a large "Thank-you, Veterans" sign along the parade route in downtown Prescott.
Morado, a fifth grader, was one of several dozen students from Sacred Heart Catholic School attending the parade as a school group.
Their principal Pamela Dickerson said she decided that attending the parade together would be more meaningful for the students than having a day off from classes. "We wanted them to show thanks and love for the veterans," she said.
The Sacred Heart group was among the thousands who turned out in the sunny, brisk weather on Nov. 11 to show support for the community's veterans.
For more than an hour, the streets surrounding the Yavapai County Courthouse served as the venue for everything from bands to walking groups to horseback riders.
In all, 82 entries participated this year - exceeding last year's 74 entries, as well as the 48 in the previous year.
The community turnout also reflected significant growth. "I'd say we doubled our crowd this year," Prescott Special Events Manager Becky Karcie said, estimating that the crowd totaled as many as 5,000 people.
Each side of the courthouse square held crowds of people, young and old, cheering the entries as they went by.
Well before the 11 a.m. start, people were gathering along the route, including new Prescott residents Al and Linda Slade, who sat along Cortez St., holding a U.S. flag and sitting behind a U.S. Army banner.
"We just wanted to honor our veterans," said Al Slade, a veteran of the Korean War. The couple also wanted to show support for their two grandchildren serving in the Air Force, Linda added.
Along Whiskey Row, Prescott resident Walter Tidwell watched the parade in military uniform. Retired from 30 years in the Air Force, Tidwell said he attended the parade out of "a sense of loyalty and patriotism."
On the other side of the square, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (ERAU) Chancellor Frank Ayres watched as the parade filed by the opening-ceremony stage. "What a wonderful celebration for our veterans," he said, noting that the university was proud to have hundreds of veterans as students, faculty, and staff.
Indeed, a number of the parade entries came from ERAU, including the crowd-pleasing Army ROTC group that performed Army cadences as they walked the route.
The morning began with introduction of the parade's honored guests, including two World War II veterans - 94-year-old Dan Akee, a U.S. Marine World War II Navajo Code Talker from Tuba City, who served from 1939 to 1945, and has received the Congressional Medal of Honor; and 100-year-old George Dworshak, who served in the Army from 1942 to 1946.
In addition, this year's parade placed a special focus on Vietnam War veterans, two of whom - Bruce Bates and Richard Duncan - served as parade grand marshals, along with Dworshak.
VA Medical Center Director Donna Jacobs, who joined Ayres and Prescott Mayor Marlin Kuykendall in introducing the grand marshals, noted that Veterans Day symbolizes the VA's year-around mission. "This is a very special day, but for us Veterans Day is every day," Jacobs said.
A unique feature of this year's parade was the distribution of 500 free commemorative T-shirts, donated by Tim's Auto group. Many in the crowd wore the shirts in honor of veterans.
For those who did not get one on Tuesday, Karcie said the shirts will be available for sale. More information is available by calling Karcie at 777-1349.
Follow Cindy Barks on Twitter @Cindy_Barks.