Ironton parade special event

Published 12:24 am Sunday, May 24, 2015

If you’ve seen one parade, you’ve seen them all, right?

At least that’s what I thought before I moved to the Tri-State.

When I was a child, the biggest parade in my hometown was the Christmas parade. It was a pretty big to-do; a lot of businesses, marching bands, churches and the like participated. I have very vague recollections of standing in the crowd waiting for candy to be thrown at my face. That was back when throwing candy at children’s faces was commonplace.

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When I joined my high school’s marching band, I remember dreading the parade. After the first year, I learned to watch very carefully for presents left behind by the parade’s equine participants.

Once I moved up here and began writing for The Tribune, the idea of covering a Memorial Day parade didn’t exactly appeal to me. What can you say about some floats and loud fire engines, I thought. Isn’t this just like every other parade in the country?

I came to learn there as quite a bit you can say about the Ironton-Lawrence County Memorial Day parade, and no, it isn’t just like every other parade in the country.

I was sort of stunned to learn that Ironton’s parade was the longest continuously held parade in the country.

That means, every single year since 1868, people right here in this community have come together to organize a tribute to the men and women of our nation’s military who have passed on either in the line of duty or after a long, storied career.

That’s pretty incredible if you really stop to think about it. Every single year, at least a few people felt it was important to keep carrying on the tradition. These days, however, there are well more than a few people on the parade committee and it takes each and everyone to make sure the event runs smoothly.

When I first started at The Tribune, covering the Memorial Day parade was something Teresa Moore, our former editor and longtime reporter, lived for.

She worked closely with Lou Pyles, parade committee member, to organize the paper’s annual special section with the parade lineup and stories of featured people and events.

She never got more excited than when it was time to hit the streets and speak with people about their nostalgic tales of past parades. She especially loved going to the Navy Night service the Thursday before Memorial Day.

What’s the big deal about this parade, I thought. Sure, it’s been going on a long time, but it’s just a parade.

When Teresa lost her battle with breast cancer in April 2013, I remember the day in May when Lou came to see me. She had her hands full of papers. She told me I was going to have to take over Teresa’s duties and handed me the stack.

I always felt it a great honor to follow in the footsteps of anything Teresa Moore did. Organizing the Memorial Day parade special section was my first of those steps.

Covering the parade that year was the next.

It was after I arrived downtown when I learned why Teresa loved it so much. The energy emanating from the crowd was unlike anything I had experience since I started working in Ironton. At that was a good hour or two before the parade had even started.

That was one thing that really stood out to me, how people loved the parade so much they set up their chairs and shade tents hours in advance and some the night before. I spoke to countless people who said they had viewed the parade with their families as small children and who now brought children of their own.

Just as many people I spoke with had participated in the parade in some way or another many times before.

And boy, was it a long parade. I walked the entire route and could never seem to find a thin spot in the crowd.

Last year, I was able to participate in the parade in a new way. I rode along and played with the Ohio University Community Band.

It was neat to ride the parade route and see all the people waving and clapping and celebrating with their families.

This year I’ll be with the band again, riding along and playing some patriotic music.

It really does feel like an honor to be just a small part of the 147-year-old parade. So much work goes into the parade each year and not just during the month of May. A lot of the work happens all through the year.

If you see a member of the parade committee, say “thank you” for their hard work and dedication. And if you see a veteran, thank them for their service to our country. Without them, we couldn’t celebrate our freedom.


Michelle Goodman is the news editor at The Tribune. To reach her, call 740-532-1441 ext. 12 or by email at