Springfield’s annual Memorial Day Parade on Monday morning saw everything from bands to Buckeye Man, candidates to candy and semi-trucks to scooters, drawing a large crowd celebrating the long weekend and anticipating the beginning of summer while pausing to recognize those who served, some who made the ultimate sacrifice, and those who continue to serve to keep the country free.
With the 2023 theme “Veterans Serving the Community,” around 200 groups and 1,700 participants took the traditional path from Veterans Park up Fountain Ave., McCreight Ave. and Plum St. to cheers, smiles and several waving hand-held American flags to honor area veterans, some of whom participated and others whose names were emblazoned on various vehicles.
After coming to the parade for many years, Katherine Owings attended for the first time as a United States Marine Corps veteran, along with parents Jon and Brandi Owings, who set up chairs on Fountain Ave. Personal experience made this parade stand out.
“Just being in (the Marines) changed my viewpoint,” Katherine Owings said. “Now it hits closer to home. We all know somebody who had lost somebody they knew.”
Watching Memorial Day parades as a child, Katherine Owings admits she never saw herself being a part of the tradition. She chose the Marines as a way to challenge herself and advised others who want to serve to know what they’re getting into.
Katherine Owings dressed in a Marine Corps shirt and American flag hat and Jon Owings in a shirt showing pride in his daughter’s service. The family has a history of service back to Jon’s grandfather serving as a pilot during World War II.
“The parade helps us remember what it’s all about. I’ve always respected this holiday,” Jon Owings said.
Following a 21-gun salute, the Kenton Ridge Marching Cougar Band led off the parade, after an absence of several years. Cathy Wood, director of the Veterans Service Commission of Clark County, was the 2023 parade grand marshal, riding in a convertible.
Parade participation included plenty of diversity and a variety of businesses, churches and groups. Among the most popular were those tossing candy and small toys, which the youngest attendees eagerly scrambled for, some collecting seemingly enough to get them through to Halloween.
The most popular fashion color was red, white and blue, and even if people didn’t sport those, one group was eager to help.
For the past 26 years, VFW 1031 of Springfield volunteers have handed out 800 American flags to attendees before the parade and as their float passes by to give back to the community. The organization is celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2023.
“The people are very receptive. We’ve found a lot of patriotism in Springfield,” said Shirley Campbell, who has chaired the VFW parade committee with Vi Reed for 26 years.
It’s also a way of teaching the next generations respect as the group had a range of ages participating, including sisters Bailey and Annabelle Gray, ages 11 and 6 respectively. Their father served in Afghanistan and grandfather in Saudi Arabia and this is a way to honor their service.
“It’s spreading the joy,” said Bailey Gray.
VFW volunteer Phyllis Robbins said the group could likely give away more than their allotted 800 flags. That enthusiasm makes it special.
“So many people reach out for the flag and it warms your heart and gives a good feeling to us,” she said.