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Parade marches on with cheering crowds

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published May 27, 2015


With cheers ringing out for the local weatherman, the 63rd annual St. Clair Shores Memorial Day Parade sailed down Jefferson Avenue under dry skies.

“It’s a great day,” said Navy Medical Corp Ensign Amol Kamat, of Grosse Pointe Shores. “We thought we’d come out and show our support for fellow military members.”

And Julie Schaefer, of St. Clair Shores, said this was the best Memorial Day Parade she’d seen in 23 years.

Listening to the beginning of the parade and the playing of the Pledge of Allegiance, she said, “gave me goosebumps.”

“To see all of this ... in 23 years it has never been this good,” she said. “People are taking it more seriously now.”

Her father drove a general in Germany during World War II and she said that remembering veterans like him are “what it’s all about.”

“Freedom comes at a cost and it’s rising,” she said, quoting a sign that went by in the parade.

Janice Gray, of St. Clair Shores, was holding her own sign thanking veterans from the sidelines on the parade route.

“We love the parade,” she said. “My dad was a veteran and I think they should be honored. It’s a wonderful thing and it’s a great parade.”

The VFW Department of Michigan Honor Guard was on hand for the occasion to show the crowd that “America is strong and well and we never forget our fallen,” said Capt. Gary Gamble.

“We honor the dead by helping the living,” he added.

The parade is a tradition for many visitors and those marching, as well.

“It’s one of the ways we kick off the summer,” said Larry Leib, Potentate of the Detroit Shriners, as the group waited to step off May 24. “It’s a wonderful environment. It’s inspiring to us.”

Leib said the Shriners, who support the Shriners Hospital for children and also run the Shrine Circus and the Michigan State Fair, like to put on a good show to spread the message of “having fun and helping kids.”

There were fun floats and entries in the parade, too, including the Detroit Pistons mascot, Hooper, who danced on top of a truck while firing up the crowd, plenty of local pageant winners past and present, and The Crew of the Forgiven, the Brethren of the Great Lakes — local pirates.

This year, the group is raising money for Special Olympics, said Leslie ‘the Black’ Scott, and will be holding a masquerade ball during Aqua Fest this summer to help support the cause.

“We enjoy it, we like interacting with the kids,” he said, adding that this gives the pirates a chance to get in character.

Also in the parade were TV and movie cars brought by Joe Vitale, of Warren, including the Mutt Mobile from “Dumb and Dumber,” the General Lee from the “Dukes of Hazzard,” the 1966 Batmobile, Herbie the Love Bug and a DeLorean from “Back to the Future.”

“I wanted one since I was a kid,” said Vitale about the DeLorean. “I got it eight years ago and fixed it up.”

Lakeview Bands Director Jodi Thompson said she appreciated the fact that her students get to perform and get a new appreciation of what Memorial Day means outside of a day off and barbeque.

“Kids get an appreciation for Memorial Day and what it’s supposed to mean,” she said. “That’s why we’re in full uniform, too.”

Air Force veteran Patrick Kopytek is a curator at the Detroit Arsenal of Democracy Museum in St. Clair Shores, where they educate the public about World War II and other conflicts.

“We honor veterans and those who have fallen and this is one of the ways (we do that),” he said. “It also preserves the memory.”

He said they had a celebration in honor of VE-Day earlier this month and will also pay tribute in August on the anniversary of the end of World War II in the Pacific.