City of Falls Church officials were glowing Tuesday following one of the largest turnouts ever at a City-sponsored Memorial Day Parade and Festival, which came off without a hitch, and under rain-free skies, Monday.
Two of the three candidates in the hotly-contested race for the Democratic nomination for governor of Virginia, Brian Moran and Terry McAuliffe, were among those who walked the parade route along with an abundance of other candidates and regional elected officials.
The crowds were estimated at 15,000 over the course of the day, which officially began with the annual Don Beyer Volvo three-kilometer “Fun Run” at 9 a.m. and concluded following the parade around 4:30 p.m. Special Events Coordinator Jenny Elmore of the City’s Department of Recreation and Parks estimated that 3,000 ran in the “Fun Run,” in significant excess of the 2,500 t-shirts prepared for free distribution to participants.
“I feel like it was an even larger crowd than I remember seeing” at the annual fete, the 28th consecutive event, Falls Church Mayor Robin Gardner commented during Tuesday night’s City Council meeting. She thanked all involved in organizing and coordinating the event for “a spectacular job.”
“Memorial Day is the biggest event the City has every year. Not only is it fun for everyone but it also helps the community remember those that have served our country. This is our way of saying thanks,” Gardner stated.
“This year’s parade was very diverse with excellent community support and involvement,” said Elmore. “Memorial day participants spanned all age groups, everyone from young children in the parade to 90-year-old World War II veteran Tony Scarbo, who was in the Battle of the Bulge and made the POW/MIA presentation during the Veterans’ Ceremony.”
Falls Church Vice Mayor Hal Lippman, who ran in the “Fun Run,” said he was pleased there was a more harmonious mood at the event than last year, when residents on one block of the parade route hooted and insulted the mayor and other City Council members because of their opposition to Council actions to approve a prospective hotel near their neighborhood.
Council member Dan Sze, complimenting the City police and others for their work at the event, confessed that he took a spill off his bike (“My mom always told me never to ride a bike wearing flip-flops,” he quipped), but that he was offered assistance instantly by Volunteer Fire Department personnel on site.
Mayor Gardner recalled that Councilman Dan Maller took a fall at last year’s parade, noting that a new Council tradition may be setting in.
Former television newscaster and long-time City resident Gary Reals was once again at the microphone to announce the participants in the parade as they came before the reviewing stand for their final flourishes in hopes of winning an award from the panel of judges.
The winners included the following:
* Best Vehicle: Fairfax Harley Owners Group.
* Best Marching/Walking Group: Kena Shriners.
* Best Emergency Fire Vehicle: D.C. Fire Department.
* Best Youth Group: Caporales Youth Group.
* Best Professional Marching Band: Warpipe.
* Best Float: F.C. Village Preservation and Improvement Society.
* Best Majorette/Pom Pom Group: Baltimore Westsiders.
* Judges’ Choice: Tinkus Tiataco.
The Falls Church News-Press, which for the 16th consecutive year launched its annual food drive in partnership with Diener and Associates, CPAs, receiving donations of canned and non-perishable foods at its festival booth. The drive continues through July 4 with special boxes to collect food located at the F.C. News-Press office (450 W. Broad, Suite 321), Diener and Associates (128 Rowell Ct.), the F.C. Community Center (223 Little Falls), Anthony’s Pizza (320 W. Broad), Unity Club (220 W. Broad), Point of View Eyewear (701 W. Broad) and the F.C. Art and Frame (102 Park Ave.). All the food donated goes directly to the Food for Others food bank in Merrifield, which distributes free meals to the needy daily at 14 mobile locations throughout Northern Virginia.
The News-Press also sponsored its seventh annual “Wacky Hat” contest, won by Abigail Dragan.