Three special events Wednesday will honor Merced County's armed services veterans -- a solemn midmorning ceremony at the veterans' memorial in Courthouse Park, another noontime ceremony at Bob Hart Square and a traditional afternoon parade in downtown Merced.
On a holiday for students, government workers and banking employees, the parade along West Main Street generally draws several thousand spectators and is well-supported by the public, according to Darren Hughes, Merced County's veterans service officer.
"It's a good family event," Hughes said. "It's an opportunity for us to recognize veterans in Merced County and have an enjoyable afternoon. It's awareness, outreach and recognition."
Eight veterans are being honored as grand marshals. The parade features marching veterans and color guards from veterans' service organizations, floats, old cars, police and fire emergency vehicles, bands and dancers.
In dramatic fashion, the 1 p.m. parade will begin with a flyover of military jets.
Mike Waite, parade chairman and Merced County Chamber of Commerce treasurer, said the Veterans Day parade keeps gaining momentum and has a real good turnout from the public.
"It's good to carry on the tradition," Waite said. "Sometimes we take them (veterans) for granted and this is a real good thing for Merced."
Hughes said dancers from Lao Family Community will perform, and local car club members will drive their vintage vehicles along Main Street. The Merced County Sheriff's Department will be represented, as will both the bomb unit and Special Weapons and Tactics vehicles from the Merced Police Department.
The day's activities begin at 11 a.m. with a solemn ceremony by veterans groups in the veterans memorial in Courthouse Park. The opening ceremony at noon in Bob Hart Square will be emceed by Hughes who will give a short message and introduce the grand marshals.
The parade runs along Main Street from G to N streets and then heads to Courthouse Park.
Waite said Merced's veterans parade originated in 1960 as part of the Central California Band Review. That event ran regularly until the early part of this decade when it moved to Madera for several years and has returned to Childs Avenue in front of Golden Valley High School.
Honored grand marshals include Henry Holck, Joe Smith, Edward Nacey and Lee Bogear, Air Force retirees; Army retiree Leeman Pierce, U.S. Navy retiree Eugene Geoble, William Elliott, Army; and Tony Soria, a World War II Navy veteran.
Grand marshals were selected by members of veterans' service organizations and the Merced County Veterans Council, Hughes explained. Donations from businesses, the community and service organizations make the parade possible.
Representatives of American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars posts, the Vietnam Veterans of America, Castle Air Museum, the Merced Elks Lodge, Daughters of the American Revolution and other groups are expected to participate.
Marching bands from the Merced High School Marching 100, Our Lady of Mercy School, and Rivera and Tenaya middle schools also will take part in the parade.