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Parade gets military shot in the arm

More than 100 members of military, past and present, have expressed interest in volunteering for duty.

April 25, 2007|By Chris Wiebe

Military veterans and active service members who have signed on to help Burbank on Parade organizers launch this year's event — themed "Saluting those who serve" — are adding strength to the troop of parade volunteers.

Though the exact number of participating past and present military service members will not be known until the event on Saturday, more than 100 veterans have called Burbank on Parade organizers to express interest, said Mickey DePalo, of the Burbank Veterans Commemorative Committee.

Still, the driving force behind pre-parade activities are the faithful returning volunteers, who are committed to putting on a successful event, he added.

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"There are some people who are really passionate about getting the parade going," he said. "They've got a lot of people who are very dedicated. They want to keep it a small-town atmosphere. Burbank is a big city with a small-town atmosphere."

DePalo hopes to see a diverse pool of military veterans among parade walkers.

"I'm hoping for a good representation from World War II, all the way to the war in Iraq and Afghanistan," he said. "Hopefully, we'll get a really good cross-section of veterans and people on active duty."

This year, parade organizers have conducted more advertising efforts and get-the-word-out campaigns than in past years, parade chairwoman Marie Dennis said. And the military commemoration theme has added special import to the event, with organizers doing everything from word-of-mouth to contacting the National Guard, military recruiters and veterans groups to spur participation among military personnel.

"What we've seen more than anything else is everyone reaching out to each other and reaching out to others that they think might want to participate," she said. "And we really wanted to do our best to honor all of those who have been in the military previously and who are currently serving abroad."

A military air squadron is scheduled to fly over to open the event, and there will be an 8-foot-tall commemoration wall, "The Wall of Courage," where attendees can attach yellow ribbons bearing the names of active and deceased military personnel, parade organizer Sandy Dennis said.

Late this week, yellow ribbons will begin appearing along the parade route in anticipation of Saturday's parade.

Burbank on Parade's ties to military service go back to 1945, when the Burbank Junior Chamber of Commerce put together a celebration of the end of World War II that coincided with the city's annual May Festival. The weeklong festivities featured a carnival, dances and a pageant, an event that continued on for 12 years.

The tradition reemerged in 1982 after some Burbank residents combined their efforts to put on a one-day parade in May, rather than a weeklong celebration.

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