Community to parade its true colors

Red, white and blue to flood China Lake Boulevard for annual Parade of 1000 Flags Saturday

Community to parade its true colorsBy CHRISTINA MACGREGOR

News Review Correspondent

Strains of music drift through the air, more than a thousand flags flap in the breeze, rows form with bearers in freshly pressed uniforms and patriotic garb — the annual scene commences Saturday morning as military men and women, veterans and citizens join together for the 10th annual Parade of 1000 Flags.

The parade — as well as the ceremony that follows, a week-long display at Freedom Park and a Sept. 11 candlelight vigil — kicks off the Ridgecrest Exchange Club’s partnership with China Lake to present the annual Remembrance Field in honor of men and women in the military and the first-responders who have given their lives in service since the attacks of 9-11.

The parade starts at 9 a.m. at the Sierra Lanes bowling alley parking lot. China Lake personnel, dignitaries, firefighters, police officers, local schoolchildren, emergency and military personnel, family volunteers, local Scouts, churches and businesses will be led by the award-winning Burroughs High School Marching Band.

The processional will move north down China Lake Boulevard, then turn west on California Avenue toward Freedom Park, adjacent to Ridgecrest City Hall.

This year’s grand marshal will be Capt. Paul Dale, commanding officer of Naval Air Weapons Station at China Lake.

Other distinguished guests this year include state Sen. Jean Fuller, Assemblyman Vince Fong and field representative Keenan Hoschchild from House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s office.

“People are literally asked to honor their country, honor the family members or friends that have served, by carrying a flag and carrying it proudly,” said Timothy Neipp, Exchange Club president and logistics coordinator of the Remembrance Field.

After several years of posting the 1,000-flag display, fellow Exchangite Pat Farris suggested that by incorporating a parade into the event, the public would have more opportunity to see and participate in the display.

And for the last 10 years, the event has never failed to stir up community and patriotic spirit in the hearts of its collaborators.

“This event is extraordinary every single time because it awakens these feelings in you that you understand — we are one,” said Mayor Peggy Breeden, who expressed regret that her illness prohibits her participating in this year’s event for the first time since the parade began.

She said that while it may be easy to write off annual events as routine, “this is one thing that I don’t think that anybody expected us to keep up, because it was so momentous the first time we did it. How could you ever create those feelings again? How could you ever honor in the same way, with the same dedication, magnitude and honest feelings?

“But this is one event that does that.”

As the parade arrives at Freedom Park, flags are posted on the lush green grass around the gazebo, accompanied by the sounds of “Amazing Grace” played on the bagpipes. Flagbearers then circle the park and the gathering spectators to form the Choir of 1000 Voices singing “God Bless America.”

This year’s piper is Linda Snoddy, a 20-year-old Bakersfield resident. In addition to playing bagpipes for six years, she plays flute, piano and percussion at numerous public and private occasions.

She also travels across the United States and Canada for competitions, as well as for tours with the Robert Malcolm Memorial Pipe Band.

“This year I went to Kansas City and competed at the Winter Storm competition,” she said, adding that she placed second in one of the largest competitions in the country.

She said she is excited about playing for this year’s ceremony and “sharing my passion for the instrument with others.”

The brief ceremony — usually between 30 and 40 minutes — will include greetings from local dignitaries and a keynote address by Josh Dhanens, assistant director for the Kern County Veterans Service Department (see related story, this edition).

On Monday, Sept. 11, the Exchange Club will partner with local firefighters for a candlelight vigil (see related story, this edition).

For the week following, the flags will remain posted at Freedom Park — serving as a popular site for family picnics, gatherings and photo sessions, but most of all as a reminder of the price of freedom.

“It’s something that I’ve taken on board because I am too young to have remembered many of our nation’s other conflicts,” said Neipp.

Although he tries to stay connected to the history of our past conflicts, “this was the first event within my lifetime in which I had an opportunity to commemorate the actions of our heroes.”

“I have said this on past occasions, but I think it bears repeating that while other places in our country are experiencing violence and unrest, our community is coming together in a demonstration of love of God, and country,” said Parade Chair Farris. “It sets us apart.”

She added that this is a wonderful opportunity for children to get a sense of our country’s history. “And these are memories that will last their whole lifetimes.”

Breeden agreed that watching the little ones stare at the flags as they pass by in the parade is her favorite part.

“The eyes of the little ones, who reflect hopefully our future, are not necessarily experiencing the loss of something, but the significance of who they are in this long line of patriots.

“No matter what color we are, no matter what we believe, we are Americans. And I think it is such an extraordinary event that all else pales beside it.”

Farris invited anyone interested in carrying — or sponsoring — a flag to call her at 760-371-4301.

For more information, or to purchase an official T-shirt, stop by the News Review or visit the Remembrance Field through Sept. 15.

Pictured: Uniformed military unite with the civilian community to march in the Parade of 1000 Flags. -- News Review file photo

Story First Published: 2017-09-08