Cape holds inaugural Memorial Day parade
In many communities across the country, one of the biggest traditions has always been the Memorial Day parade down Main Street, where Boy Scout troops, high school bands and decorated veterans march to the cheers of adoring residents.
On Monday, Cape Coral joined those ranks by having its own Memorial Day parade down Cape Coral Parkway from Perkins restaurant to the Southwest Florida Military Museum on Leonard Street.
Thousands of residents crowded into whatever shady spot they could find and watched as city dignitaries and many others joined the procession to celebrate those who gave their lives to protect this nation.
This first parade was done in style, featuring its own small reviewing stand, with Big Mama of B103.9FM serving as host and describing the participants as they crossed in front of the stand.
Special guest retired Major Gen. James Dozier, Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marceno and Cape Coral Police Chief David Newlan spoke for a few moments before the roar of motorcycles signified the start of the procession.
“Today is a day when we look back and reflect on the men and women that provided us the blanket of freedom we enjoy today,” Newlan said.
“Those we honor today were ordinary Americans who had their lives interrupted at a most inopportune time. They were our brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers and friends,” Dozier said. “When our country needed their service, they answered the call, and fought and died in the service of our nation.”
Ruth Blake, who was in the Navy for more than 20 years, and Poncho Mauricio, a 101-year-old World War II veteran who survived the Bataan Death March, served as grand marshals and rode in a World War II jeep.
Newlan drove a hybrid police car/taxi cab as a way to show the difference between drunken drivers taking the $13 taxi fare home and the $13,000 ride in a police car you face as a result of a DUI charge.
Mayor Joe Coviello got a much different ride, on a police boat, using the police radio to greet spectators while his wife, Diane threw candy out to the small kids along the route.
The parade also featured marchers from more than 50 organizations, including the Shriners, a mainstay at any parade; the Red Cross; the Dunbar High School marching band; as well as countless classic cars, including some “Vettes” of a different kind, with dozens of the classic cars from the 1950s to today.
Therese Everly marched with the Lee Republican executive committee and said it was an amazing experience.
“I’m proud of the city to have its inaugural parade. I was in awe of the people who came out and applauded us, waving the American flag, and to thank all the veterans who served. It was spectacular,” Everly said.
Carol Davis of USA Dance said participating was great and it was a way to show everyone the amazing veterans in the city.
“We have so many veterans who live in Southwest Florida and this is an opportunity to honor our soldiers. We have some who make this city very special,” Davis said.
The parade ended at the museum, where visitors were invited for lunch and entertainment from the Calendar Girlz, who also made the march and did a special military-themed performance.
Ralph Santillo, who rode the route in a classic car and who serves as founder of the museum and the Invest in America’s Veterans Foundation, said he was amazed by how many people came out and that this day was nearly a decade in the making.
The museum has always had a parade on its anniversary on Sept. 11, and there has been a Veterans Day parade for years on Southeast 47th Terrace. Santillo said they wanted to change that after hurricanes and other events seemed to wash things out.
“I was concerned that we were one of the few cities that didn’t have a Memorial Day parade. When I was kid, we always had one,” Santillo said. “I asked if we could switch our parade to Memorial Day. I think it was really successful. We had a great crowd.”