Would it be a good idea to …
… pump up attendance at the Wyoming Valley’s major Veterans Day parade by awarding prizes to school and other groups whose members line the route and show the most spirit? Or display the most respect to the women and men who served? Or craft the most patriotic signs?
Designate one corner at the foot of the Market Street Bridge in Wilkes-Barre to Meyers High School students and alumni, and the opposing corner to Coughlin High’s crew. Let marchers in various parade units act as judges, determining which group, or groups, lining the way offers the most vigorous applause and appropriate cheers. Encourage Scout groups, church organizations, civic clubs and others to claim prime parade-viewing spots on sidewalks stretching from Kingston Corners to Public Square, then vie for the title of most enthusiastic supporters.
Who knows, today’s parade watchers could become next year’s parade entrants, having gained a deeper appreciation for its makeup and mission.
We didn’t float this notion past the parade’s organizing committee. We didn’t consult with other communities to determine what keeps their Veterans Day traditions strong. We want to know what you think.
By coaxing groups to show up and show pride, the parade might draw more people — particularly young people — who have not previously witnessed the procession and understood its significance. Editorials in this newspaper have long lamented the drop-off in parade attendance compared to bygone years. Organizers of prior events fretted over funding shortfalls, and each year there seems to be a new wrinkle (military equipment displays, essay contests, airplane flyovers) aimed at increasing the audience.
To be clear: A parade is only one way, perhaps not even the best, of publicly expressing gratitude each year to those Luzerne County residents who sacrificed to protect this nation, in wartime and in peace. The main motivation for becoming a parade bystander should come from the heart, not a game show-like mentality to get free stuff. (Though the candy routinely tossed from floats to the youngest children might blur that line.)
Would awarding audience prizes be a surefire way to add more pep to the Veterans Day parade? Is the proposal appropriate for the occasion? A suggestion so crass you can’t believe it?
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