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VFW Hoping for More Spectators for Loyalty Day Parade Saturday

(The Times photo by Betsy Reason)
Noblesville Veterans of Foreign Wars Ralph Lehr Post 6246 Commander Rob Loy of Cicero and VFW auxiliary president and Loyalty Day Parade Queen Linda Behrends of Noblesville are organizing this year’s Loyalty Day Parade, which will begin at noon Saturday at Ivy Tech Hamilton County Campus in Noblesville.

The Loyalty Day Parade is for the American people to show their support for the United States and bring back the American values.

It’s for the veterans, too, who fought for the freedom of this country.

Those are the words of Rob Loy, commander of the Noblesville Veterans of Foreign Wars Ralph Lehr Post 6246, explaining the purpose of the parade when I interviewed him at the post three years ago.

This week, he looked through 1960s scrapbooks of old black-and-white photos of past Loyalty Day Parades, drawing attention to the downtown streets filled with people who came out to watch the parades. This year’s parade is at noon Saturday.

America has been celebrating the holiday for almost 60 years. President Dwight D. Eisenhower proclaimed May 1, 1955, as the first observance of Loyalty Day. While May 1 is the official Loyalty Day, the Noblesville VFW thought a parade might be better attended on a Saturday versus a weekday.

Despite Loyalty Day being recognized with an official proclamation annually by every president since then, fewer and fewer people celebrate Loyalty Day or even have it on their calendars. Noblesville VFW had Loyalty Day Parades annually from 1958 to 2008, according to the scrapbooks, then started up again with the parades in 2019.

Through the years, spectators for the parade have dwindled.  The last Noblesville Loyalty Day Parade attracted only about 50 spectators, said VFW auxiliary president Linda Behrends of Noblesville. A certified nursing assistant for 22 years before taking a job at the VFW as a bartender, she also heads up the auxiliary because she wants to make a difference for families, and she’s done that.

This week, she’s been busy coordinating the VFW’s Loyalty Day Parade. But it may be the last year for the parade, she said.

“Anymore, it doesn’t seem like people want to come to parades that aren’t Fourth of July or Christmas, major holidays,” she said. “We try to post flyers in the uptown businesses, gas stations, we put it all over Noblesville Chatter, all over Facebook.” This year, she said, it was more difficult to get the word out early, even though they started planning in January. They went to the City of Noblesville, which changed its application, “so we had to wait,” and then changed its parade route, “so we had to wait,” and the next stop was Noblesville Common Council, to get approval and then to a Noblesville Common Council meeting, then for approval by Noblesville Police Department. The approval took three months, she said, for the parade and parade route approval that will travel 10th Street, rather than the usual Ninth Street route, due to construction.

The VFW volunteers will meet at 9 a.m. Saturday to begin preparations for the parade day. There is a sign-up sheet for pitch-in items. The barbecue grill will heat up at about 12:30 p.m. for hot dogs and hamburgers which will be served up following the parade for anybody who stops in. There will also be 50/50 raffles and deejays by the Randalls until 8 p.m. The community is welcome.

Behrends, who will reign as Loyalty Day Parade Queen in Saturday’s parade, wasn’t told of her selection until four days ago. So she had to pick out a new red dress which she will wear with her queen’s crown. She said any little girls who want to be Loyalty Day princesses can ride with her in the parade. “The queen’s court are all of the little girls who come to the VFW,” Behrends said.

Parade entries in this year’s Loyalty Day Parade include U.S. Congresswoman Victoria Spark (R-IN-05), a 98-year-old World War II veteran, Korean War veteran Kenny Harris, Vietnam Veteran choices, Paddock’s Wrecking, Car Wash Kings, Mochi Donuts, Auto Outfitters, Navy Ship 29 (three floats) , J.J. Pompei with fireworks and more.

The VFW members would like to see a big crowd come out again, like there used to be, for the Loyalty Day Parade, which steps off at noon Saturday in Noblesville.

The parade staging begins at 11 a.m. at Ivy Tech Hamilton County parking lot at 16th and Harrison streets, and travels west on Harrison Street, south on 16th Street, west on Logan Street, north on 10th Street (note change from the traditional Ninth Street parade route) and east on Monument Street.

Parade entries are still being taken and folks can just show up at 11 a.m., even if they don’t sign up ahead of time, said VFW auxiliary president Linda Behrends of Noblesville.

She invited me to their parade-planning meeting on Wednesday at the VFW, where veterans and auxiliary members gathered around dining tables to give out last-minute instructions for Saturday’s Loyalty Day activities. Volunteers are meeting this week to make signs for the sides of vehicles. They went over their growing list of parade entries, which include a 98-year-old World War II veteran, a dozen princesses, Navy Ship No. 29, U.S. Congresswoman Victoria Spartz (R-IN-05) of Noblesville, Charlie McMillan Jr. for Noblesville Township Board, Darren Murphy for Judge, Korean War veteran Kenny Harris of Noblesville (who laid the wreath for many years during the Veterans Day ceremonies), Steve Costlow of Noblesville and his antique truck, Barry Dixon and his 1957 Cadillac, borrowed convertibles from Hare Chevrolet, a diesel truck club, and Behrends, who is the Loyalty Day Parade Queen, and more. There will be all kinds of Jeep vehicles owned by members.

(Map courtesy of Noblesville VFW)
The VFW Loyalty Day Parade begins at noon Saturday at Ivy Tech Hamilton County parking lot at 16th and Harrison streets, and travels west on Harrison Street, south on 16th Street, west on Logan Street, north on 10th Street, east on Monument Street, returning to Ivy Tech.

She said, in 2023, the Loyalty Day Parade will be replaced by a Loyalty Day Festival with bands all day, food and bounce house. The street will be closed off in front of the VFW for the festival. “The parades just aren’t getting the turnout,” Behrends said.

The VFW Post went smoke free on May 1, 2018. Loy doesn’t call the VFW a “bar” or a “canteen.” He has said, “We’re here to help veterans and we have a good time, too.”After the parade, the community is invited to enjoy free hamburgers and hot dogs at the post, 654 S. Ninth St., with 50/50 raffles and a deejay until 8 p.m. Ginger’s Cafe will provide pies.

Founded in 1947, the 75-year-old Noblesville VFW post opened its current, more spacious building in 2011.

In other VFW news, the post will also partner again with the American Legion for the Memorial Day service at the Hamilton County War Memorial and displaying of flags at the local cemeteries.

Anyone who would like to take part in the parade, entry forms are still being accepted, as are walk-ups. Loy, a Hamilton Heights High School grad, said he’d try to get everybody in the parade who wanted to join. Parade entries are free.

There are also opportunities for sponsorships. For information, call the post at 317-773-9956.

– Contact Betsy Reason at betsy@thetimes24-7. Get a bonus today, with a second Betsy Reason ‘Things to Do’ column today in The Times.