As the Huntsville/Madison County Veterans Week celebration draws near, planning is underway for the many events that make up the unique weeklong celebration in Huntsville, including the popular parade that was canceled in 2018 due to weather and 2020 due to COVID-19.
But members of the committee planning this year’s events, which include a Nov. 10 Veterans Dinner, Nov. 11 breakfast for Gold Star families and veterans, and the parade – said to be one of the nation’s largest of its kind – say they will be held only if they can be done safely.
“The dinner and breakfast are the most concerning since they are held inside,” Bill Marriott, chairman of Veterans Week, said. “I’m much more optimistic about the parade right now.”
Marriott said there is a misconception that Huntsville’s Veterans Day parade is the only event in observation of the federal holiday.
“It’s actually an entire week, when the Huntsville/Madison County community comes together like no other to honor our veterans,” he said, noting the Nov. 5 YMCA Prayer Breakfast, Nov. 6 Marine Corps Birthday Ball and several other events.
“These are great opportunities to honor all who served,” Marriott said. “We all come together because no single organization could do it by themselves.”
The parade would also be impossible without its sponsors and participation from the city and its police department, he said.
John Perry, a retired command sergeant major who works as a senior production engineer for Intuitive Research and Technology, is chairing activities at the Veterans Memorial, where the parade will begin, the reviewing stand is located, and Channel 48 cameras will be broadcasting live.
Keith Langewisch, a retired chief warrant officer who is also an aviation analyst at Program Executive Office for Aviation and president of the local Warrant Officers Association, is chairman of the parade.
While Marriott acknowledges that another surge in the pandemic could spur cancellation of the indoor events, “we will continue to plan with safety in mind.”
COVID protocols will include masking and social distancing, as “the targeted audience, our veterans, are, for the most part, an elderly group that could be the most vulnerable,” he said.
A decision to cancel the indoor group events would be made in concert with local governmental and military officials.
“We’re not going to put the population of Huntsville or Madison County in danger,” Marriott said, adding that a decision to cancel the parade can be delayed until the eleventh hour depending on the weather conditions.
“It can be a ‘game day’ decision,” Marriott said. “Go or no go.”
Langewisch said criteria and rules for being part of the parade have been revised this year.
“We are focusing on entries that truly honor veterans and veteran organizations,” he said.
The theme for the parade this year is “Honoring Those Who Serve.” Participants will include marching bands, ROTC groups, veterans groups and more.
Links to register for the parade can be found on the website for co-sponsor Channel 48 at waff.com.
A link to the calendar of events and corporate sponsorships can be found on the website for the local chapter of the Association of the U.S. Army at ausa.org.
Marriott hopes everything comes together to allow for the full spectrum of Veterans Week activities to be enjoyed by all.
“Support from the Huntsville/Madison County community for our veterans has always been world class,” he said. “We hope they will take the opportunity to come out in force safely, to let our veterans know how much their service to our country means to our community.”