Parade to fill streets with patriotism, excitement

Parade to fill streets with patriotism, excitementBy CHRISTINA MACGREGOR

News Review Correspondent

Ridgecrest streets are expected to be flooded with more than 1,000 people in patriotic garb to march in the 10th annual Parade of 1000 Flags on Saturday, Sept. 9, at 9 a.m.

The event, presented by the Ridgecrest Exchange Club and the Naval Air Weapons Station, China Lake, will commemorate the 2,996 individuals who died in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, as well as honor wounded solders, other fallen heroes, first responders and soldiers in our region.

The parade will be staged on the north side of the Sierra Lanes parking lot at 8:30 a.m. and will begin promptly at 9 a.m. as more than 1,000 volunteers holding flags will proceed down the three-quarter-mile route on China Lake Boule-vard and then west on California Avenue toward Freedom Park.

China Lake personnel, firefighters, law enforcement, local school children, emergency and military personnel, family volunteers and the Burroughs High School Marching Band are some of the individuals signed up to walk in the parade. The grand marshal of the event is Josh Dhanens, a wounded warrior who is the assistant director for the Kern County Veterans Service Department in Bakersfield.

At the end of the parade, the flags will be posted in Remembrance Field in Freedom Park.

This year also marks the 14th anniversary of the 9-11 Remembrance Field. The field was organized by Timothy Neipp, Ridgecrest Exchange club president, four years before the onset of the parade.

The field started out small. According to Neipp, the club bought a few hundred flags (200-300), and then rented the rest from a sister club in Bakersfield.

“They were doing a similar event as well, so we would run over to Bakersfield to pick up a bunch of flags to augment ours and use them [when] setting up the field. We were eventually able to buy more and more flags each year in order to have our own field of 1,000-plus flags.”

Even though the field of flags has grown impressively over the years, the parade was the main catalyst in getting others to notice the field.

“Pat Farris was the one who added the parade,” said Neipp. “Her thought on it was simply that we have this field going up, and we have a limited number of people who are participating in it or even aware of it. She brought the parade along to increase the involvement of the rest of the community.”

“I figured if we had flag bearers do a parade and had them post the flags, then everybody would know that [the field] was there,” said Farris, parade chair, adding that she is “appreciative of the patriotic spirit of this community.”

“We have people who just assume the role as captains every year and sponsor rows of 10 (because every row has 10 flag bearers). The schools [also] participate in a very effective and meaningful way,” she commented.

After the parade ends at Freedom Park, and flags are placed, a short ceremony takes place at the gazebo. Starting things off, the flagbearers will become a choir of 1,000 voices, singing “God Bless America.” After the song, Capt. Paul Dale, commanding officer of NAWS, will give a brief address.

Other participants include Assemblyman Vince Fong, as well as greetings from representatives of House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and other dignitaries. After the ceremony, the flags will be left in the field until the following Friday, so that the community can visit the flags.

“People enjoy taking their families and walking through the field of flags. The families often take picnic lunches, or spread out their dinners on the grass in the evenings. It is a great experience,” said Farris.

She said she initially thought it would be “a bit of a challenge to get 1,000 flag bearers” every year, but was pleasantly surprised that all has worked out well since the beginning.

She attributes the success of the parade and organization to the people who are a part of it every year.

“People have been very cooperative, and appreciate and enjoy [the parade]. It has become ... a signature event for this community,” Farris commented, “It is the only event or project — as far as I know — where we partner with China Lake.

“They cosponsor this event, and they have a strong presence in the parade with military people in uniform and usually some officer, commander, or admiral in the VIP portion of the parade. They facilitate a lot of what happens with putting on the parade.”

A candlelight vigil will be held Monday, Sept. 11, at 7:30 p.m. Everyone is invited to gather at the Freedom Park gazebo to participate in a ceremony that honors our fallen heroes. (See future editions of the News Review for details.)

There is no age limit for those who wish to participate, and the events are free and open to the public.

“It is so important that the children are a part of this, because most of them don’t remember 9-11. [These events] help them understand the cost of freedom. They also helps children [gain] a sense of community that I don’t know how they would gain in any other way,” said Farris.

“Many communities are demonstrating violence and violent behavior with all that is going on in this country, but our community is celebrating and commemorating a culture of patriotism and love of country.

“It is really remarkable.”

While every age is invited to take part in this patriotic experience, the flag sizes for flag bearers vary by age.

Individuals age 8 and older get to carry large flags, while younger children have different, appropriate flag sizes. Children in strollers are welcome as well.

There are also T-shirts available for purchase if people wish to wear them in the parade (or just have them for memory’s sake).

The T-shirts are $15 per adult and $12 per child and can be purchased at the News Review office.

If individuals would like to volunteer as flag bearers, or contribute financially to the parade, they can call 760 371-4301.

Pictured: Families, friends, clubs, veterans, businesses, schools and organizations join in for the annual Parade of 1000 Flags. -- News Review file photo

Story First Published: 2017-09-01