May 29—Downtown Aiken saw hundreds of visitors on an overcast Saturday for the annual Memorial Day Parade.
Almost everyone who attended wore some combination of red, white and blue to celebrate the holiday, which is to honor the men and women who have died while serving in the U.S. military.
Attendees were seated up and down the parade's route, which started at the City of Aiken Visitors Center and Train Museum, at 406 Park Ave., before heading to Laurens Street and ending at Edgefield Avenue.
Many clapped and cheered as they watched the procession of floats, cars and walkers advance down the streets. The phrase "thank you for your service" was uttered dozens of times, as many veterans from all branches of the military were involved in the parade.
Music was provided by the Parris Island Marine Band and the S.C. National Guard 246th Band, whose groups both marched in the parade playing a wide assortment of instruments.
One of the larger attractions in the parade was an Army AH-1F Cobra helicopter, which saw action in Vietnam, Desert Storm and Bosnia. A giant tiger was painted on the side, with the art extending the length of the chopper.
The parade was canceled last year due to the coronavirus pandemic but came back in full force this year. Aiken City Council member Gail Diggs was on hand for the festivities, and she said she thinks "Aiken needed this."
"The crowd is evidence (that) everybody was ready to get out and celebrate, honor our fallen heroes, celebrate our veterans and thank all those who are still serving," said Diggs, who was dressed in patriotic garb for the occasion.
Near the front of the procession were Norman W. Thibodeau, the grand marshal, whose career included four years in the Marine Corps followed by 31 years in the Army; and Jeanne J. Townes, the first lady, whose career included study at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Nursing and three years of active duty in the Army Nurse Corps.