On Monday, May 30, the City of Dacula will celebrate Memorial Day with its 18th annual Memorial Day parade.
The theme of this year’s parade is “Land that I love.”
Parade founder and organizer Marvin Atherton started the parade and festival 18 years ago after attending a 4th of July parade in Stone Mountain.
“I thought it would be cool to do a parade,” he said. “I decided I would do a parade for Memorial Day because there didn’t seem to be any recognition of our veterans on Memorial Day in the area.”
That first year, Atherton approached city officials seeking help, but was unable to convince the people in office at the time that the parade was a good idea.
“I didn’t have any help,” Atherton said. “The parade was basically out of my pocket.”
Though city officials were initially less than enthusiastic about the event, Atherton was pleased and surprised with the community's support for the event.
“When I saw as many people as there were on the streets of Dacula, it was amazing,” he said. “When the parade was over, I had old-timers say there were more people on the street than they had ever seen.”
Since then, the parade has remained a popular annual event for area residents. While community enjoyment of the parade is important to Atherton, the most rewarding aspect is the feedback he receives from area veterans.
“Honestly, it’s probably when a veteran comes up to me during or after the parade and says thank you,” he said.
Atherton believes the true meaning of Memorial Day is often lost in the commercial and vacation aspects of the holiday.
“Everybody has their priorities in the wrong place,” he said. “People want to go do whatever they want to go do, but they don’t stop and think that it’s because the veterans are the ones that helped give them those rights.”
Atherton said it is very important to him that young people understand what the holiday truly signifies. His goal, he said, is to instill in young people the knowledge of why Memorial Day exists and the appropriate way to honor veterans.
“I’m just trying to get the kids to understand what Memorial Day is all about,” he said.
The parade will begin promptly at 10 a.m. in the parking lot of Hebron Baptist Church. The parade will travel down Dacula Road, turn onto Second Avenue and end at Dacula High School. (See photo above for map.)
Former 7th Congressional District candidate Col. Doug Heckman and will serve as parade grand marshals. Other parade participants include , the marching band, , the Georgia Gwinnett College ROTC, , numerous Girl Scout and Boy Scout troops as well as a host of local politicians, businesses and civic organizations.
Memorial Day is a United States federal holiday designated to honor those who have died while in military service. The observance is held on the last Monday in May.