Giving back in honor of those who gave all, Memorial Day parades, ceremonies are a community effort
Residents from around Butler County will gather at parades and memorial services hosted throughout the weekend to recognize the annual federal holiday, which honors those who lost their lives serving our country.
For residents like Jess Parker of Prospect, Memorial Day weekend is the accumulation of months of planning and hard work.
“We get started pretty early in the year,” Parker said of the plans for Saturday’s Community Day in Prospect, which will include a Memorial Day parade beginning at 11 a.m. on Main Street and various vendors and activities from 10 a.m. into the late afternoon.
She said her team first identifies sponsors and sets a budget early in the year.
“The sponsors and business are the ones that truly get the process started,” she said.
Assistant director of veterans services Melissa Kuhn also starts planning for Butler’s Memorial Day Parade months in advance.
“Essentially, we start in March,” Kuhn said. “We have volunteers from all the veteran organizations. We start in March and get our list together.”
For communities like Butler County, parade preparation is mostly run through various veterans’ associations like the American Legions and the Veterans of Foreign Wars. Participants like Jim Bianchi, an Army veteran who has been part of the American Legion’s Honor Guard since 2010, likens the preparation to a “well-oiled machine.”
“We have it down to a science,” Bianchi said. “We’ve been doing it so long now, everybody knows what they’re doing.”
Shawnee Young, director of the veterans services office, has been helping with the parade for over a decade. She is grateful for the amount of effort that the veterans put toward the annual parade.
“They really step up,” Young said. “I have so much appreciation for our veterans, and they really are enthusiastic about honoring those who have given their lives for this country.”
Prospect combines the Memorial Day parade, held on Saturday, with a “Community Day,” which features activities such as a bouncy house, face painting and new this year, a meet and greet with Disney characters.
“I’m a community member. I grew up here. I actually went to elementary school here,” Moraine Elementary teacher Amanda Raabe said. “And this really is the biggest event of the year.”
Moraine Elementary will provide one of the more than 50 floats for this year’s parade. Students who were student of the month or were part of the wellness team are invited to ride the float in this year’s parade.
Sarah Drew has two daughters who will be riding on the elementary school’s float for being named students of the month. Drew is familiar with Prospect’s parade and the impact it has on the community.
“We’ve been (in Prospect) for like 10 years, and we’ve been going about every year,” Drew said. “Last year, our older son played his instrument in the parade.”
In preparation for the parade, on Wednesday, May 24, Moraine Elementary students and volunteers were helping create the school’s float by making the decorations for it.
Parker is an elementary school teacher who is not only tasked with putting Moraine’s float together, but also organizing the entire parade for Prospect.
“I’m really good at gathering people and really bringing people together. It’s an important way for us to come together,” Parker said. “I would not be able to do it without the Prospect community center and the firemen’s community centers. I organize it, but they are the ones that follow through and volunteer.”
Carter Rozic, 13, one of the volunteers who helped with decorating Moraine Elementary’s float, said he can see what the Memorial Day parade and holiday mean to the Prospect community
“I think it’s important because you can show off your pride and joy with whatever you’re celebrating,” Carter said. “All these students decided to come out and support each other's pride for their country.
Carter also recognizes the work that, “Miss Parker” has put in for this year’s parade.
“Miss Parker has been doing such a hard working job with all these students, like leading them through and telling them the instructions and all of that. She’s an amazing teacher.”