Memorial Day parade thrives with help from volunteers
GRAND LAKE —The origins of the Grand Lake’s Memorial Day parade are fuzzy, but Grand Lake’s Historical Society traces it back, in part, to resident Dorothy “Nursie” Young.
Young, a World War II veteran nurse who served at Pearl Harbor, hosted fellow veterans at her lodge in town, and was a popular marcher in the parade until her death in 2000.
The Memorial Day parade remains a highlight in Grand Lake, both honoring veterans and kicking off the summer season. Administered by the Grand Lake Chamber of Commerce, executing a smooth, organized operation is still no easy feat. Volunteers Donna Gore and Rick Howard have acted as the glue holding the event together for the last four years.
Partners and co-owners of contracting business RHCC Corp., Gore and Howard came to Grand Lake 15 years ago, drawn by its serenity and small-town feel. The pair joined the Chamber’s ambassador program and were approached about assisting with the parade.
“We said yes, and from that point we were sort of hog-tied into helping,” Howard joked.
The pair has strengths well-suited to coordinating a smooth event. Through their construction business, they’ve learned to be well-organized and project-driven.
“When there’s a job that needs to be done, we figure it out and get it done. That’s our personality,” Gore said.
Although the Chamber’s ambassador program fizzled out, Gore and Howard carried on with organizing both the Memorial Day parade and the Buffalo BBQ Weekend parade. They set up scaffolding for the announcer and register participants. They manage the parade lineup, then ensure the announcer reads each participant in order.
To keep a parade flowing smoothly, proper lineup is key.
Gore and Howard pay special attention to placement of participants with horses. Loud noises from tractors or music could frighten the animals, disrupting proceedings or injuring participants and observers.
According to Howard, the fire department is also intentionally placed near the end of the lineup.
“If they get a call, they can leave easily,” Howard said. “They’re not in the middle of everything.”
With safety in mind, Gore and Howard implemented a new policy for this year’s parade – prohibiting candy throwing. Instead, marchers will hand candy to children or allow them to grab candy from bags.
The pair tried to implement the change for longer than three years. They worried about unattended children running into the streets, unaware of oncoming vehicles and animals.
“We’re really concerned about their safety,” Gore said.
The candy marchers also assist with keeping observers at a safe distance so floats, vehicles, trucks and horses and travel Grand Street unobstructed.
With a several parades now under their belts, Howard and Gore both agree that execution gets easier with each year. They’ve worked with the Chamber to dial in efficient lineups and they’ve implemented positive change. Their greatest challenge, however, remains recruiting volunteers.
“Everyone wants to watch the parade or be in the parade. They don’t always want to volunteer to walk along with the parade and try to keep the patrons out of the street,” Gore said.
She hopes as time goes on, more will be willing to help. Both Gore and Howard see their work as a rewarding way to give back.
“We want to see the community succeed and the Chamber succeed,” Gore said. “If this is our small contribution to doing that, we were willing and able.”
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