Amidst the swirl of human and vehicular activity in the Waynedale United Methodist Church’s parking lot on a recent chilly Monday morning, Bear the dog was remarkably calm.
The furry, white, 11-year-old golden doodle dog and his owner, Bob Martin, were preparing to embark en route to the Waynedale Memorial Day Parade in Martin’s convertible, light blue, 1965 Cadillac El Dorado.
“He loves the car,” said Martin, a retired pastor from First Ministries Church. According to Martin, this year was the most recent of parades that he, his dog, and his vintage car have appeared in. “It’s fun and it supports the community,” he noted with a smile.
The parking lot, located at 2501 Church Street, served as the epicenter for parade preparations, as several groups and dozens of vehicles lined up for the procession. Mike Langston, Commander of AMVETS Post 33, was one of those tasked with getting the lineup together before they set off.
“It makes me nervous, and it’s kind of hectic, but I’ve had a lot of help,” Langston said. “We do this because of the fallen; for the people who sacrificed and gave it all.”
Sponsorship and planning for the event usually rotates between the AMVETS and American Legion Post 241. This year, it was AMVETS’ turn.
Numerous groups and more than 200 people took part in the holiday procession the morning of Monday, May 27, including the Wayne High School band, Wayne High School’s R.O.T.C. students, local Boy Scouts, the U.S. Navy cadets, the U.S. Air Force Cadets, AMVETS Post 33, American Legion Post 421, the Legion Riders, the AMVET Riders, the giant, black, 408 Blackjack locomotive, police cars, fire engines, and several cars from the public.
Boy Scout Troop 33 was there in full force, with 10 adults and more than 30 boys – from ages 11 to 18 years old, and all scout levels — marching in the event, as well as the Troop’s Scoutmaster, Ken Wells.
“We are big supporters of the troops and the military,” said Paul James, Outdoor Chairman of Troop 33. “And the boys always enjoy it.”
Hundreds of folks lined Old Trail Road to watch, most ensconced in lawn chairs they’d brought from home, waving small American flags that were passed out to the crowd, smiling and waving as folks and vehicles crept slowly past.
Many cars and floats tossed candy to children watching the event, and youngsters – and adults – scrambled for the goodies.
Roberta Hackett and Janet Bir were two spectators who had camped out on the Waynedale thoroughfare since before the parade started at 9 a.m.
Bir said the celebration was particularly meaningful to her family, who lost an uncle during the Korean conflict, and whose body was never returned home. “We’re really here to honor those that we’ve lost,” Bir said. “And to support Waynedale.”
Hackett agreed. “It’s nice to see a parade for families,” she said. “It’s just a nice, safe environment, and it’s a very friendly group of people.
“And we got some candy, too,” she noted with a sly wink.
After leaving the church parking lot at about 9 a.m., the parade continued down Church Street, then north on Old Trail Road, and finally motoring about 2 miles to Prairie Grove Cemetery.
Once there, the parade group took part in a ceremony honoring veterans, and placing small American flags on the graves of veterans.
The Waynedale event actually happened a couple hours earlier than the official Fort Wayne Memorial Day celebration. That parade began at about 11 a.m. at North Side Park, and then moved down Parnell Avenue before ending at the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum.
Langston, a U.S. Army veteran who served four years, noted that while Memorial Day celebrations like the Waynedale parade were needed and appreciated, people really should make it a year-round remembrance.
“We should take the time out every day of the year to remember, to say a prayer for these people and celebrate.”