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Decorated bikes, patriotic dogs invited to Memorial Day Parade

By: Andy Kozlowski | Madison - Park News | Published May 22, 2018


MADISON HEIGHTS — The Madison Heights Memorial Day Parade is coming up soon, and a new twist this year aims to get more people — and pets — involved. 

As usual, the parade is held before Memorial Day to save on overtime costs for city personnel. The festivities will take place Saturday, May 26, with the parade departing from the parking lot of the former Kmart at 12 Mile and John R roads around 10 a.m., and winding its way down John R and West 13 Mile roads to City Hall for the memorial service. Those roads will begin closing around 9 a.m.  

This year, children ages 5-12 are invited to join the parade route with bikes decorated in patriotic or military themes. Registration for entrants will be held at the Red Oaks Youth Soccer Complex on John R Road north of 12 Mile Road, from 9 to 9:30 a.m. Members of the City Council will judge the bikes after the parade, and the winners will receive brand-new bicycles. 

Residents are also invited to join the parade with their dogs dressed up in red, white and blue — or other American themes — culminating in a patriotic pet costume contest. City Council members will judge the dogs as well. Registration will be held at the soccer complex prior to the parade. Dogs must be on a non-retractable leash, no more than 6 feet long, and must remain with their owners at all times. 

“The pets are a new concept,” said Andy McGillivray, with the Parade Committee. “In the past, one of the veterinary hospitals in the area would walk in the parade with their customers or staff walking their dogs, some of them in patriotic costumes. That was the inspiration.”

As for the bikes, “We used to do the bike contest but discontinued it about 10 years ago,” McGillivray said. “Now we’re refocusing on that and really encouraging it so the kids can be part of the parade. It’s important for kids to understand what Memorial Day is about.” 

There will also be veteran groups, marching bands, dance troupes, Scouts, classic cars, elected officials, local businesses, entertainers and more in the lineup. One unit includes a real-life Rosie the Riveter — a woman who worked in the “Arsenal of Democracy” during World War II.   

The senior center will hold a pancake breakfast before the parade begins, and after the parade there will be a memorial service in front of the gazebo on the lawn of City Hall, featuring a reading of the names of those from the city who have died in service, as well as new and traditional music and readings honoring the veterans. Jean Linville, a Gold Star mother whose son served in Vietnam, will be among those honored. 

“People like her and her son are what this is all about,” McGillivray said. 

This year, the Parade Committee is able to spend more of the money it privately fundraised on the parade itself, since the City Council has agreed to have the city pay for the police, fire and public works personnel who help maintain order at the event. 

Madison Heights Mayor Brian Hartwell said that this year will be the first time the parade is joined by members of the Vietnamese American Association of Michigan, who will march with South Vietnamese and U.S. war veterans who fought alongside each other. He thanked the Parade Committee for its work organizing volunteers, charity groups and military veterans to make the event happen each year. 

“The Memorial Day Parade is an important opportunity for civilians to pause and honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice,” Hartwell said.