DANVILLE — For the first time ever, employees at Veterans Affairs Illiana Healthcare System have organized a Veterans Day parade to honor the service of the many veterans who live on campus and in the community.
About two months ago, while planning activities for Veterans Day on Monday, VA officials on the Danville campus tossed out the idea of organizing a parade.
Melissa Spady, acting public affairs officer, said she didn’t know how many people would be interested, but Danville is a “veteran-centric” community, and once she made phone calls, suggestions started flying.
Since then, a lot of groups and individuals in the community have joined the VA in launching this first-ever event that starts at 10 a.m. Monday at the VA’s Danville campus, 1900 E. Main St. The route follows the main drive that loops around the VA campus.
“Veterans are the focal point of our business and they are the reason we come to work every day. What better way to honor and thank them for their service than to have a parade on our historic 121-year-old campus,” said Spady, who explained that this is also an event to honor the veterans who live on campus but are unable to go to other Veterans Day activities in the community.
She said those veterans who are able will be along the parade route.
Spady said all veterans and the public are invited to the VA to watch the event that will feature 21 entries, including the Danville Police Honor Guard leading the parade, the Danville High School Marching Vikings, several local fire departments, the Patriot Riders, Lincoln’s Challenge cadets and honor guard, fair queens, vintage cars and more.
Several crew members of the VA’s facilities management team were out Friday morning placing U.S. flags along the route, and other employees were decorating the historic gazebo with bunting.
Prior to the parade, hot chocolate will be available at the gazebo, and the Four on the Floor quartet will perform at 9:30 a.m. until parade time. A “surprise in the sky” flyover will immediately precede the parade, Spady said.
Decades ago, the gazebo was the bandstand along a railroad track where people would gather daily to listen to bands perform, Spady said.
“So we are kind of bringing a little bit of that past to current times,” she said.
VA officials encourage spectators to park in Danville Area Community College’s Bremer Center parking lot, which is adjacent to the VA gazebo. That lot can be accessed through the DACC main entrance just east of the VA’s main entrance.