This Sunday is Veterans Day, and with it comes Lewis County’s annual parade.
April Pennington began organizing the parade in 2010 on her own and, to this day, she still doesn’t have a committee. This will be her last year organizing the parade before the Veterans Memorial Museum in Chehalis takes it over.
“I’ve really trying to burn up the phone lines and get new blood in, new entries in,” Pennington said. “The stress comes every year the week of (the parade). You figure when it takes a committee to normally do these things, that’s why I pull my hair out. But this is a labor of love for me. I admire our veterans. I admire their courage and (patriotism) for our country.”
This weekend, the annual veterans parade is coming to Chehalis for the second time. Although the parade originated in south Lewis County, it moved to Chehalis in 2017 when the Veterans Memorial Museum celebrated its 20th anniversary. Next year, the museum will organize the parade.
“April has been doing the Veterans Day parade for (a long time) now and it’s been at a few different locations,” said Veterans Memorial Museum director Chip Duncan. “Last year being the 20th anniversary of the museum, we wanted to do something special. Why not do a parade?”
Pennington said Duncan asked her to organize a small parade last year, and she suggested combining the two.
Pennington comes from a family of veterans. She began organizing her own veterans parade after she saw one in Arizona with her father, who was a World War II veteran. At 16, he entered World War II. At 17, he was kicked out because the army discovered his age. At 18, he went back in.
“You could see his mixed emotions of the day, of the happy and the kicking back,” said Pennington of the day she and her father saw a veterans parade in Arizona.
Duncan noted that this year is the centennial of the end of World War I, and discussed the museum’s participation in a project with the Lewis County Genealogical Society. Anyone who was a descendent of a World War I veteran could receive a certificate honoring their ancestor.
“We have invited those people to ride the float with us,” he said.
As of Tuesday afternoon, Duncan said he only had three applicants from the Lewis County Genealogical Society’s project, but said he hopes more will apply before the parade takes off.
His favorite part of last year’s parade was the sheer volume of people
“We had so many entries last year,” Duncan said. “It was so big and we had a great turnout. … When the beginning of the parade went out (and) got back to the staging lane, the last people in the parade were just heading out. We’re hoping to get the same this year as well.”
Although people can sign up for the parade the day of, the announcer won’t be able to say as much about their entry. Registration begins 2 p.m. on Sunday, and the parade starts at 3 p.m. Duncan said there will be a registration tent in the parking lot across from the PUD building in Chehalis.
Pennington encourages people to sign up for the parade in advance by contacting her at 360-266-7237.