By LOIS KINDLE
This year’s Veterans Day Parade is Ruskin VFW Post 6287’s 40th, and it’s expected, as always, to draw large crowds.
“We’ve been hosting the parade for the past four decades,” said VFW Auxiliary member Lois McBride, who co-organized the event with Tony Zipperer, a veteran and longtime post member. “We’ve done it all these years to honor present and past members of the nation’s military and as a community outreach.”
Members of 56 organizations will toss beads and candy to bystanders as they walk a mile or so along U.S. 41. The parade starts promptly at 11 a.m. at Shell Point Road and will end just shy of 19th Avenue N.E. near the old K-Mart.
Six veterans’ groups, seven scout troops, four school marching bands, nine business and nonprofit groups, the Church of God in Wimauma, Fraternal Order of Eagles, two American Legion posts, 10 area pirate krewes, three grand marshals and the Buddy Poppy King and Queen will participate. The Lennard High School JROTC will carry the colors for the VFW.
Buddy Poppy King Evan Martinez, 7, of Ruskin Christian School, and Buddy Poppy Queen Meredith Keller, 6, of Apollo Beach Elementary School, wrote this year’s top essays out of 118 submitted. This year’s subject was “My Favorite Hero.”
For the first time, the Krewe of St. Francis Drake will join the these returning crowd favorites: The krewes of South Shore Marauders, Charlotte de Berry, Sea Saviors, Peg Leg Pirates and Tampa Rough Riders; Tampa Jeep, Seven Celtic Nations, Sons and Daughters of the Confederacy, Lords & Ladies and the Sea SaveYours.
Several thousand people are expected to attend. Those who arrive a bit early, say around 10:40 a.m., will get to see a parachute group jump as like last year to kick things off.
A panel of five new community members — all veterans — will judge entries in the following categories: The Veterans Day Specialty Entry; Best Commercial Entry; Best American Youth Group; the America Tribute Award; Most Innovative Award; and the Grand Marshal’s Award.
Speaking of the grand marshal, there will be three in the parade this year. They are Sun City Center resident Vern Wick, 92, a Navy veteran and active member of VFW Post 6287 for the past 22 years; Ernest Rabineau, 94, a Army veteran and life member of VFW Post 3676 in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich.; and Navy veteran Raymond Valdez Jr., 94, a resident of Apollo Beach.
All three men served honorably during World War II.
As always, Ruskin resident Bill McConnell will emcee.
Ruskin Memorial VFW Post 6287, 5120 U.S. 41 N., Apollo Beach, will host a public after-parade cookout and awards ceremony after the parade ends at around 1 p.m. The post will sell burgers and macaroni salad for $5 and hotdogs with chips for $4.
For more information, call McBride at 813-634-2315.