Let freedom ring! Memorial Day parade Monday

Thelma Grio waves a flag with her brother Leon Palao, an Army

Besides getting a jump-start on bumper-to-bumper traffic that will likely clog U.S. 101 for a gazillion hours on Monday, Gilroyans leaving town for Memorial Day weekend have another good reason to head back Sunday night.

In the words of event chair Christy Bracco, the Garlic Capital’s annual celebration of the national holiday honoring American servicemen and women who fought and died for their country “is going to be busy, exciting and fun.”

That’s no overstatement. We’re talking an entire day packed with boxing matches, a car show featuring 200 vehicles, a parade showcasing 60 entries, delicious food, free activities and a sense of togetherness as the entire town celebrates hometown patriotism.

The day kicks off with a remembrance ceremony in honor of Americans who have fallen “to preserve our freedom, liberty and way of life.” Led by the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6309, the ceremony will take place from 9 to 10 a.m. at Gavilan Hills Memorial Park at 1000 First St. in Gilroy and feature an invocation from City Chaplain Malcolm MacPhail.

Things continue with a parade at 11 a.m. beginning near the train depot on the corner of Monterey and 10th streets. The spectacle will migrate south on Monterey Street and end near Gilroy High School on the corner of 10th and Princevalle streets.

“We have almost 60 entries this year,” said parade chair Albert Lambert. “It sounds like it’s going to be awesome.”

CALSTAR, which operates the life flight helicopter stationed at Saint Louise Regional Hospital (California Shock Trauma Air Rescue), and a flying club called the “Beech Boys” will get the festivities off to a soaring start with a coordinated fly-over around 11 a.m. The parade is sure to be a colorful exhibition, with a gaggle of entries that includes local firefighting departments, the Gilroy Police Department’s armored BearCat vehicle, a 1923 Seagrave Fire Engine, the Gilroy Historical Society’s original 1800s fire hose cart, a flock of historical tractors from Watsonville, Gerry Foisy (Gilroy’s human mascot, famous for his garlic gown), national boxing champ Robert “The Ghost” Guerrero, the Watsonville Community Band, the Wells Fargo Bank stage coach, riders from the Salinas Rodeo, the Patriot Guard Motorcycle Riders, the Charros (traditional Mexican horseback riders) and several classic vehicles from the car show, to name just a few.

“I’m looking forward to seeing the community out and about and enjoying the day,” said Mayor Al Pinheiro. “I’m also hoping people keep in mind this is a day of remembrance, patriotism and Americanism.”

As founder of Gilroy’s Exchange Club in 1990, Pinheiro said his favorite part about Memorial Day is walking in the parade every year and handing out free miniature American flags to spectators.

Al Simmons, a U.S. Marines veteran who served from 1950-1955, will serve as this years’ grand marshal of the parade. Simmons is a past commander and a life member of the VFW Post 6309 in Gilroy.

Family Fun Day will commence shortly after the parade from 1 to 5 p.m. in Christmas Hill Park off Miller Avenue. This event is free and will feature a car show (which is actually open beginning at 8 a.m. Monday), rock walls, jump houses, face painting, balloon artists, an activities booth for children sponsored by Lowe’s and live music performed by the band “Los High Tops.” The Ghost will be out and about greeting children, the South County Derby Girls will host a corn husk dolls craft, Predators Archery will set up a shooting range and the local 4H Club will be giving a demonstration on how to groom your pets. The Exchange Club will sell hot dogs, nachos, chips, drinks and snow cones.

A boxing match showcasing six sanctioned amateur boxers between the ages of 13 to 18 will take place in the Christmas Hill Park Amphitheater from 1 to 4 p.m.

A national moment of silence will be observed at 3 p.m., featuring a rendition of “Taps” and a live performance of the “Star Spangled Banner.”

Visit www.gilroycommunity.org to contact the Gilroy Memorial Day event organizers.

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