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Military Service Parade returns to downtown Tacoma

City of Tacoma and Daffodil Festival pay tribute to local military

All branches of the service, from different eras, will march down Pacific Avenue Saturday night. Photo credit: Pappi Swarner

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The second annual Celebrating Military Service Parade will be held in downtown Tacoma Saturday, Aug. 16, to honor military past and present.

"It's in appreciation of the military," said Steve James, executive director of the Daffodil Festival. "It's a way of saying thank you."

The parade, hosted by the Daffodil Festival, will launch at 6 p.m. from South 17th and Pacific Avenue and travel eight blocks.

A year ago, James and Tacoma mayor Marilyn Strickland were brainstorming about starting an evening parade to bring people to downtown Tacoma. James came up with the idea to have an appreciation parade for the military.

"I said, ‘We have one of the largest joint bases in the country in our county, yet we have no military parades,'" he said. "So I said, ‘Let's do something that celebrates the military.'"

The parade will include several military bands, large military vehicles and, of course, servicemembers.

"We do have floats in the parade, which provide music," James added. "So we have a few different ways to project sound besides bands."

The I Corps band along with pipe and drum bands will take part. James said the parade is limited to military bands.

"We've been very strict on the entries," he said. "We've had different groups call saying they want to be in the parade, but you have to have a relationship to the military to enter."

KING 5, which telecasts the Daffodil Parade each year, told James it wanted to telecast the military parade. James refused.

"I said, "Honestly guys, I don't want it televised," he recalled. "I want people to get off their tails and get down here and show their appreciation. Sitting at home on the couch watching it on TV doesn't transmit to the people in the parade."

Last year, Army veteran and Medal of Honor recipient Joe Jackson served as the parade's grand marshal. Jackson will again be an honored guest, but there will be a new grand marshal announced.

"We'll have a lot of retirees, a lot of VIPs," James said. "Mayor Strickland has invited other mayors and other officials to come out. To be there. Not to be in the parade."

A number of communities are sending a float to the parade that will carry military veterans. Seattle's Seafair Commodores will bring a float to carry Navy personnel, and the Commodores will escort them. Olympia's Capital Lakefair, Puyallup's Washington State Fair and Marysville will also send floats.

James said the Daffodil Parade will send the float that carries the Daffodil queens each year, and for this parade it will carry 25 veterans who were wounded and injured in wars.

"This is something that's going to grow into something very, very big," James said. "We're just happy to play a part in it."

Veterans in motorcycle groups will also ride in the parade, which is expected to last about an hour.

After the parade, the celebration continues with a street party from 7 to 9 p.m. in downtown Tacoma as the streets on Pacific Avenue between South 7th and 9th will be closed. Several restaurants will have live music and other activities.

Prior to the parade's 6 p.m. start, there will be a number of events held across the city. The Tacoma's Children's Museum will open at 3 p.m., and Daffodil princesses will be on-hand to greet visitors. From 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., the Northwest Military Outdoors Expo in Ruston will have information about employment after the military.

At the Washington State History Museum, World War I collections will be on display. Jim Givans will talk about the significance of the posters of the war at that time. There will also be a military band playing, WWI re-enactments and a color guard presentation.

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