Life. Liberty. U.S.A. – Annual 156th Ironton-Lawrence County Memorial Day Parade

Published 5:00 am Wednesday, May 29, 2024

By Joseph DiCristofaro
The Ironton Tribune

Over a century of veterans’ sacrifices and loss was honored on Monday in Ironton by the 156th annual Memorial Day parade, the longest-running Memorial Day parade in the United States.
“We love to have everybody come, but our main focus is always the veterans and the sacrifices they made,” said Lou Pyles, the organizer of the parade. Pyles has been involved with the parade in many different positions over the last 40 years.
With the parade running for over a century many Ironton residents and former residents flood the streets to commemorate the loss of veterans and to continue long-running traditions.
“We have a lot of people that come, this is a tradition for them, it’s a tradition for a lot of people who were raised in Ironton,” Pyles said. “They come back for this, have reunions, graduations, and just huge family get-togethers and they always come to see the parade.”
Staying true to the meaning of Memorial Day, this year’s parade has brought in many new veterans who have not participated in the past along with multiple who have become a staple in the parade along with the services that happen in the days leading up to the parade.
“We have more veterans in with the Vietnam Veterans Chapter 949, we have VFW 8850, and others. We’re so grateful to have them because that’s what this parade is about,” Pyles said.
The community comes out in masses to support the parade every year, with this year’s parade drawing in tens of thousands of people. Many people also celebrate the holiday by decorating their houses in the days leading up to the parade.
“The city comes out, and people will decorate their houses in red, white and blue, they are so loyal to our parade, and we are so blessed to have that,” Pyles said.
Thousands of people participate in the parade, split up into 10 divisions and many different groups.
“There are several hundred people that call to be in, but there are several thousand that march. The bands will have 80-100 people, there is cheerleaders, scouts, 4-H clubs and private businesses,” Pyles said.
The days leading up to the parade were filled with bad weather that left much of Ironton damaged, but that did not hinder the parade despite minor setbacks.
“The mayor and the city along with the city workers do a fantastic job of getting the town in great shape and putting up our flags,” Pyles said. “196 of our flags were destroyed in the storm, and the next morning the city workers were out cleaning up everything and the flags.”
Despite the 2024 parade just taking place, the parade committee has already begun planning the 2025 parade. Each year over 300 entry forms are mailed out to people interested in participating in the parade.
“I love working on the parade, it’s an honor and a privilege to do this,” Pyles said. There are many ways that community members can support the parade both on parade day and leading up to Memorial Day.
“They can either participate in the parade, or make a donation, those donations go to help put this parade on,” Pyles said “But the main reason is to buy flags for the city of Ironton, and for the flags that go on the graves of veterans at Woodland Cemetery.”

Email newsletter signup