Springfield Memorial Day parade brings out crowd

Charles Burton has attended for years: ‘There’s a sense of community.’

Credit: Bill Lackey

Credit: Bill Lackey

Overnight rain left the area in time, giving way to clouds and occasional sun as the Springfield community gathered Monday morning for the annual Memorial Day Parade.

More than 110 groups and an estimated 3,000 participants representing organizations, businesses and individuals waved, threw candy to spectators — with some demonstrating what they do — along with displaying remembrances of those who served on a route that took them from Veterans Park to Fountain Avenue, McCreight Avenue and Plum Street.

Randy Ark, a Springfield native and U.S. Army veteran who served during the Vietnam War, was the 2024 grand marshal, leading off the parade in a 1949 Willys Jeep. A Purple Heart recipient, Ark is active in veterans recognition and events in the area and was “pleasantly surprised” to be chosen for the honor.

“Who’d have thunk it?” he said, laughing and admitting he never made it to the annual parades growing up as he was busy on his family’s farm.

Credit: Bill Lackey

Credit: Bill Lackey

While Ark enjoys keeping things light, he is always reflective and serious about Memorial Day, having seen action firsthand.

“Memorial Day means a lot to me and the veterans we remember who gave up their future for our present. It was an amazing sacrifice,” he said.

With an American flag in her hand, 4-year-old Aria Dean approached Ark for a photo just before he took off on the parade route. This is her third Springfield Memorial Day Parade.

Grandmother Terri Perkins brings the family up from Fairborn annually and was determined to make it again despite having only arrived back Sunday evening from a trip to Wisconsin.

Perkins, whose husband is a U.S. Air Force veteran, wore a shirt with a poppy on it, a symbol of sacrifices of military veterans, and an Air Force jacket Aria encouraged her to wear.

She’s looking forward to continuing the tradition by bringing another grandchild, who is currently 18 months, to the parade in 2025.

Credit: Bill Lackey

Credit: Bill Lackey

Charles Burton of Springfield hoped to attend with his daughter, but couldn’t shake her from her sleep, tired from finishing up her studies at Wittenberg University. So he came solo to the parade. His family has been here for years, and he wants to continue it.

“It’s a vantage point of growing up here,” Burton said. “There’s a sense of community.”

He enjoys seeing the growth of downtown and many of the free events community members can enjoy such as the parade and Summer Arts Festival. Burton, who is Black, said it meant a lot to see groups such as the Tuskegee Airmen, Black pilots who served in World War II, represented.

The parade is Springfield’s largest of the year and billed as one of Ohio’s largest Memorial Day events.

One of parade’s youngest attendees was 3-month-old Zoe Ratliff, who was clad in an airplane blanket in her stroller to support her brothers who were participating in the Kenton Ridge Marching Band and Boy Scouts.

Zoe’s mom Julie was in the parade when she was little and is glad to keep the tradition going along with husband Stephen.

“It’s good seeing something at which the community can come together,” Julie Ratliff said.

The younger attendees — and a few older ones — had fun in the biggest scramble for sweets outside of beggar’s night as the parade participants passed. One unique parade participant was a semi-truck cab decked out to resemble Uncle Sam.

While that was the fun of the parade, Ark said he hopes the attendees don’t forget the meaning of Memorial Day and the sacrifices that allow them their freedoms. Visiting war memorials, such as those he’s been involved in getting installed in Veterans Park, would be a good way to do so.

The memorials are located just east of the Springfield Museum of Art near the bridge on Fountain Ave. Ark said it would be a good side tour as people visit the park for the upcoming Summer Arts Festival, museum or using the neighboring bicycle path.

“Every day ought to be Memorial Day, and we should give thanks for it every day,” said Ark.

Credit: Bill Lackey

Credit: Bill Lackey

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