By Danny Schlitt
Every week in The Little City, we have many opportunities to gather as a community, from City Council meetings to the Farmers Market to enjoying the beautiful neighborhood parks. And every May, the Memorial Day Parade and Festival brings members of the greater Falls Church community together to honor the men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice while serving in our country’s armed forces. The event is a shining example of individuals coming together to do what close-knit communities do best: supporting each other and having fun together. As the Director of the Recreation and Parks Department, it is a privilege to manage the team that produces this signature annual event.
Over 10,000 people attended the parade and festival this year. It is a timeless city tradition, one that is clearly being handed down to the future generations. I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who makes this amazing event possible: city staff, our elected officials, and the residents, businesses, and visitors of this great Little City.
Thank you to the city staff who already started planning the 2015 event this week. Recreation and Parks, Public Works, the Police Department, the Sheriff’s Office, and the Volunteer Fire Department worked tirelessly to ensure the enjoyment and safety of all who participate in and attend the festivities. Most members of the 40-person event crew worked from about 5 a.m. – 8 p.m. on the day of the event. Instead of being at home with their families, staff fulfilled their public service duty; I could not be more proud of my fellow staff members for their work ethic. Their never-ending dedication is essential to producing such a large event that has high expectations.
Thank you to the elected officials, especially City Council, who supported and promoted the event. I appreciate their enthusiasm in continuing this important tradition, right down to marching the parade route on a hot summer day. This year also featured Governor Terry McAuliffe, making his first public appearance in the city since being sworn in to office, proving how important the Memorial Day Parade and Festival is to the area.
I am sure the city staff and elected officials join me in thanking the individuals and civic organizations in our community, without whom the Memorial Day Parade and Festival would not be possible. It is the residents, businesses, and visitors we have a mission to serve every day, and it is a joy to create this opportunity to bring families, friends, and neighbors together.
Thank you to community groups like the Greater Falls Church Veterans Council who organized the centerpiece of the day, the Veterans Ceremony. They continued the tradition that started in 1846 of reading aloud the Falls Church Area Veteran’s Honor Roll. This year’s keynote speaker was Anthony Griffin, a Marine Corps veteran and the former Falls Church City Manager from 1983-1989. Although Mr. Griffin has not been a city resident for years, he proves that once you are a part of the Falls Church community, you are forever a part.
Thank you to the groups who made special appearances in the parade. The U.S. Army Drill Team Soloists and the Old Guard Fire and Drum Corps wowed everyone with their precision and skills. The dance troupes, Marshall High School Marching Statesmen, clowns, ballerinas, and numerous other performers were true professionals marching in the heat. And children marching for their team sports or civic groups certainly made their parents proud, as cameras were going nonstop to catch their moment in the spotlight.
Thank you to over 100 businesses who stepped up as sponsors, vendors, and parade participants. They were an excellent representation of the greater Falls Church area, and they provided attendees with a memorable family-friendly experience.
Thank you to the residents and visitors who join together on Memorial Day to honor fallen soldiers and celebrate the freedom their sacrifices have given us. Over 4,000 people joined the fun run, a 3K race down residential streets. The fun run is unique in that registration is not required. Simply join your neighbors for a little jog, then claim a t-shirt, which immediately becomes a coveted collectible. The big sense of accomplishment is evident on the faces of all who participate.
Most of all, thank you to all who serve, and especially to those who made the ultimate sacrifice. It is because of these men and women that we are able to enjoy the simple pleasures in life like a parade and festival. It is our honor and duty to give thanks for all you have given to us.
It’s been my privilege to be a part of the crew of hard-working city staff that has put on the event for the past 24 years. I am already looking forward to next year.
Danny Schlitt is the director of City of Falls Church Recreation and Parks, the department that organizes the Memorial Day Parade and Festival.