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Largest Veterans Day parade west of the Mississippi

Since 1951, Albany, Oregon, has recognized veterans

A float sits in the staging area as participants wait for the start of the 2016 Albany Veterans Day Parade. Photo credit: Veterans Commission Association

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On Saturday, Nov. 11, at 11 a.m., the unmistakable roar of more than 400 motorcycles will mark the start of the 2017 Albany (Oregon) Veterans Day Parade. The traditional motorcycle start will be eagerly anticipated by the more than 45,000 spectators expected to turn out this year to watch the parade.

The parade starts at 11 a.m. in honor of the anniversary of the armistice of Nov. 11, 1918, which since 1954 has been observed as Veterans Day. The armistice was signed at the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month and ended World War I.

"The parade began in 1951," according to Patty Louisiana, president of the Veterans Commemoration Association, which organizes the parade. "In previous years, the Armistice Day commemorations had a small showing.  The Marine Corps League, which had members who had returned from World War II, thought they could improve it and they did.  Each year, they looked at what they could do better, and it has transcended the decades."  

Now it's the largest Veterans Day parade west of the Mississippi River.

"One thing that makes our parade unique is unlike large cities, we have no barriers along the parade route," Louisiana said.  "It allows interaction between the spectators and parade participants.  We will often see WWII vets sitting with their families watching the parade, and a participant will come over and thank them for their service. Other times a vet may be sitting on the sidelines and get up and decide to march in the parade."

The veterans who are serving as Grand Marshalls for 2017 are women.  At the beginning of the parade, following the motorcycles, there will be female vets representing every era from WWII to the present day and all branches of service -- as well as some Rosie the Riveters.

"We have asked women we know in the area who are veterans to step up and participate," Louisiana said.

The Albany Veterans Commemoration Association organizes the parade.

"I am always amazed at the creativity of the floats," Louisiana said. "People come from other states as well as the local area to be part of the parade. We have veterans, re-enactors, the Sheriff's posse, military vehicles and car clubs who will invite veterans to ride in their cars."

More than 200 separate parade entries are expected for this year's parade.

With more than 45,000 spectators, the streets of downtown Albany fill up several hours before the parade starts. Local businesses along the parade route will open early, and several groups will have hot chocolate and coffee.  The Optimist Club will host its Annual Pancake Breakfast at West Albany High School. The cost is $8 a person; military, veterans and children under age 12 are $4.

Post-parade, the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 584 will offer a free chili lunch, and the American Legion Post 10 will offer a free spaghetti lunch for veterans and parade participants at noon.

For more information about the parade and other Veterans Day events, visit albanyveteransdayparade.org.

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