Thousands lined the sidewalks along Sherman Way in Canoga Park on Monday to see marching bands, shiny classic cars, horses, bagpipe players and Boy Scouts, and to mark the day of remembrance for those who died while serving in the U.S. armed forces.
Other California cities might have their own traditions, but the annual Memorial Day parade put together by the Canoga Park-West Hills Chamber of Commerce may be the biggest parade for this holiday in the state, according to the chamber’s president, Mark Neudorff.
“It’s the only parade in Los Angeles that we’re aware of,” Neudorff said. “(It’s) certainly the largest parade, Memorial Day parade, in California.”
This is the 28th year for the event, which draws about 30,000 people, Neudorff said. “It’s an honor for the Chamber of Commerce … to be the host of this wonderful tribute to our fallen heroes and their families, to bring the community together to show our respect for active military veterans and first responders.”
World War II veterans Al Lewis and Michael LaVere said they were honored to be serving as joint grand marshals for the parade.
“This is a great day for us,” LaVere, 92, said before a ceremonial wreath-laying and the parade got underway. LaVere, a B-24 navigator during World War II, flew 36 combat missions over Europe. “We honor all the men and women that didn’t make it. But it’s also a day to honor all of the men and women that are currently in the armed forces, serving our country and protecting our freedom.”
Lewis, a B-17 pilot who is now 93, said he really appreciated the recognition. Lewis flew 25 combat missions in Europe.
U.S. Rep. Brad Sherman, state Assemblyman Matt Dababneh and Los Angeles City Councilman Bob Blumenfield, along with Canoga Park Neighborhood Council President Corinne Ho and U.S. Navy Capt. (Ret.) Bill Ratner, presented a wreath before the parade in front of a placard bearing the names of Canoga Park High School graduates who died in World War II, the Korean War and Vietnam War.
About 900 people participated in the parade, driving classic cars, firetrucks or Harley Davidson motorcycles, riding horseback or walking and carrying banners.
“Rosie the Riveter” rode in the back of a restored Army jeep, and “Mr. Patriot,” dressed as Uncle Sam, walked and waved at the spectators.
A Los Angeles City Fire helicopter flew low overhead as firetrucks inched along Sherman Way. Dancers in sparkling red dresses from Fab Girls of The San Fernando Valley kicked up their legs. Cub Scouts and American Legion members walked the route and greeted attendees.
But it was the high school bands, tricked-out new cars, classic old cars and Mexican folk bands that accompanied horses and riders dressed as vaqueros that were the real crowd-pleasers. Local bands from Taft Charter High School, Canoga Park High School and El Camino Real Charter High School, plus Madison Middle School’s Drumline drum corps, showed off their musical talents.
“This is something that the community comes together to make happen,” Blumenfield told the audience before the parade got underway. “When we do this parade and we celebrate America, we are celebrating the freedom that was won by our soldiers. So when you see a veteran today, please thank them.”