Community bleeds red, white, blue

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

Community bleeds red, white, blueThe community’s patriotic spirit will display its colors — red, white and blue — as the annual Parade of 1000 Flags flows through our arterial streets on Saturday morning.

Since 2005, the Ridgecrest Exchange Club has brought to Freedom Park the “Remembrance Field” as a tribute to the fallen on 9-11, and the cost in human lives that America continues to pay for freedom.

Exchangite Pat Farris noted that the stirring 1,000-flag display went unseen by many residents, so in 2008 she had the idea of finding one thousand community members to carry flags in a parade through town before planting them at the Remembrance Field.

“Thanks to the outstanding patriotic spirit of our great community, we are bringing this spectacular event for the 12th year in a row,” said Farris.

Dignitaries, elected officials, uniformed military and veterans line up with hundreds of other volunteers to carry flags.

This year’s grand marshal will be Ridgecrest Police Chief Jed McLaughlin — who coordinated the response and recovery efforts following our recent earthquakes.

The award-winning sounds of the Burroughs High School marching band will once again join the parade, as will the audience-favorite Kern County Pipe Band.

Parade participants stage at the Sierra Lanes parking lot at 8:15 a.m., and begin their march toward Freedom Park at 9 a.m. After flagbearers plant their flags, they become the Choir of 1000 Voices for “God Bless America.”

Weather forecasts predict a cooling trend this weekend, with a temperature of 81 degrees at 9 a.m. and clouds moving in around 10 a.m.

Rear Adm. Scott Dillon, commander of Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division China Lake, will be the keynote speaker in a brief ceremony following the parade.

“It takes the combined effort of more than 2,000 people working together to produce this demonstration to the world of our love of country, community pride and spirit of unity,” said Farris.

She noted that while parades are a traditional part of celebrating historic milestones and national holidays, “this parade commemorates one of our nation’s darkest days.”

Patriot’s Day, now observed on Sept. 11, “has been set aside as a time for us to remember the original events of 9-11.”

Farris added that a lot of behind-the-scenes work goes into pulling off the event.

“I want to recognize the hard work of the Exchange Club, under the leadership of President Timothy Neipp, for overseeing all of the moving parts that go into preparing for this event.”

In partnership with the Ridgecrest Police Department, Neipp help cordon off the parade route in advance. Naval Air Warfare Station China Lake, which partners with Exchange for the event, helps coordinate volunteers to drive in more than 1,000 stakes of rebar in the pre-dawn hours of parade day.

After flags are planted, they remain on display at Freedom Park until Saturday, Sept. 14.

“I am personally blessed to be a part of all of this, but my greatest joy is to see all of the children with such happy faces, proudly carrying their flags,” said Farris.

To carry a flag, call Farris at 760-371-4301 or show up early on parade day.

For additional information on the Wednesday, Sept. 11, candlelight vigil and the “Remembering our Fallen” exhibit, see related stories in this section.

Pictured: Community residents of all ages carry their flags down China Lake Boulevard on their way to Freedom Park. — Photo by Laura Austin

Story First Published: 2019-09-06