There’s no doubt that the Petaluma Veteran’s Day parade is one of the city’s most popular events, annually drawing thousands to the downtown area. Some years, due to inclement weather and other factors, the numbers drop a bit. That’s what happened in 2002 (see excerpt of article in sidebar), when the threat of rain chased away casual attendees, leaving the stalwarts to enjoy a surprisingly rain free parade without such a big crowd as usual.
This year, even if it rains (it shouldn’t, but who knows?), parade organizer Steven Kemmerle says the audience for the parade — and especially the parade itself — is going to beat all previous records.
“This one is going to be the biggest,” Kemmerle says, sound slightly tired but genuinely pleased. “The parade will have more vehicles, more marchers, more of almost everything. Everyone wants to be involved this year.”
The day kicks off at noon with music and announcements in Walnut Park. The parade commences at 1 p.m. and concludes back at Walnut Park for a ceremony involving prayer, the pledge of allegiance, and a number of presentations.
Planning on attending are Congressmen Mike Thompson and Jared Huffman, along with a representative from Senator Kamala Harris’s office, and Theresa Gunn, who will present a proclamation from Governor Jerry Brown.
In part due to local first responders being invited to participate, with gratitude for their service during the fires at an enthusiastic high, Kemmerle anticipates that the audience for the parade, and the ceremony that follows it in Walnut Park, will be noticeably larger than in the past. Last year saw 40,000 people filling up the downtown streets.
“We’ll have that many and probably a lot more this time, but I’m not worried about the audience,” he jokes. “I know we’ll have room for all of them. I’m still wrapping my head around how to get all these cars and vehicles in the parade.”
Participating in the procession will be over 200 separate entries of cars, jeeps, motorcycles, and various military vehiclenot to mention horses, bands, scout troops, fire trucks, police cars, CHP vehicles, and assorted individual marchers.
“I don’t think we’ll have any tanks this year,” Kemmerle says. “That’s probably a good thing.”
FIFTEEN YEARS AGO
Veterans star in patriotic parade
Rain spares marchers, watchers in 2002 North Bay Veterans Parade
This year’s turnout was smaller than expected, probably due to the promise of rain, although someone must have pulled some strings with the parade gods, as there was little more than a spatter of rain at the beginning.
Marchers included veterans of WWII, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, along with bands and representatives of local patriotic and military organizations. Mayor Clark Thompson and Councilman Mike O’Brien were among the marchers.
Following the parade, and memorial service took place at the end of the parade route, at Walnut Park.
(Excerpted from The Argus-Courier, Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2002. Photos and text by Chris Samson)