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Alpharetta gearing up for Old Soldier’s Day parade
by James Swift
jswift@neighbornewspapers.com
July 23, 2014 04:45 PM | 2135 views | 0 0 comments | 2 2 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The Old Soldier’s Day Parade has been an Alpharetta tradition for more than 60 years. Its historical roots, however, stretch back to the late 1800s.

Shortly after the end of the Civil War, veterans in what was then Milton County would convene for annual get-togethers in Alpharetta. In the early 1920s, the remaining Civil War vets invited returning World War I soldiers to participate in festivities as well.

As economic conditions worsened, the event was ultimately discontinued. After roughly a 30-year absence, a band of veterans brought the festivities back to Alpharetta in 1952.

For more than half a century, the city has officially celebrated the first Saturday in August as Old Soldier’s Day. Now a celebration of all war veterans, the 62nd annual event is scheduled to take place Aug 2.

The theme of this year’s parade is “Teach Our Children: God, Flag, Honor, Country.” American Legion Post 201 Commander Marty Farrell said the meaning is self-evident.

“Patriotism, love of country and solid background in faith, I think makes people better citizens,” he said. “We want to pass on those beliefs to future generations.”

The event begins with the 36th annual Old Soldier’s Day race, with a 5K and 10K starting at 7 a.m. at Wills Park. The Alpharetta City Band will perform at city hall at 9:15 a.m., with a memorial service following at 10:15 a.m.

After a keynote speech by grand marshal and retired U.S. Navy Capt. Donald A. Giles, a parade is set to kick off at 10:30 a.m. The route concludes at the American Legion Post 201, where free soda and Varsity hot dogs will be available.

Downtown Alpharetta Road will be closed from 7:45 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. for the event. Old Milton Parkway, from SR 9 to Wills Road, will be blocked from about 6:45 a.m. to noon.

Alpharetta Special Events Manager Kim Dodson said many veterans and active military personnel bring their children and grandchildren to the parade.

“This is a special day for these children to see how the community respects their dad, grandfather or mother,” she said. “Alpharetta radiates with pride and honor for all our veterans and their families.”

More than 100 marching units will appear at the parade, Farrell said. He expects attendance this year to be in “the multiple thousands.”

Farrell said his favorite aspects of Old Soldier’s Day were the patriotic music, the “profusion” of American flags and the appreciation of attendees. “It’s kind of a display of the great country we live in,” he said.

Farrell, a Vietnam veteran, said Post 201 plans for the event virtually all year. He said the event displays a sense of gratefulness that many returning soldiers may not experience upon their first homecoming.

“Americans love a parade, and I think that’s the reason why people from north Fulton attend,” he said. “Georgians, I think as much as anybody, are very patriotic people.”

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