One of the most endearing things about the City of Falls Church is its annual Memorial Day Parade and Festival.
Of course, Memorial Day is a solemn occasion at its core, and the ceremony held every year in honor of those who’ve given their lives defending the values that are at the heart of this nation’s existence is the pivot around which all else happens on that day. It’s a misnomer to say the festivities are launched by the Don Beyer Volvo 3K “Fun Run” at 9 a.m. They really start before dawn, when City Parks and Recreation staffers and others begin marking out and setting things up, followed soon by vendors, crafters and civic volunteers who arrive to set up their tables, propping up their signs, laying out their goods and erecting their protective canopies.
This year, as is usually the case, the weather cooperated nicely, although there were intermittent but only slight sprinkles on and off, as if Mom Nature had to catch herself to keep the spigots turned off. That was underscored when, mere hours after the festivities were all wrapped up and cleaned up by early evening, a long, steady rain broke out that lasted well into the next day.
By around noon, the vendor areas were filling up with people, many a little sweaty wearing their t-shirts from the “Fun Run,” and most in shorts and t-shirts, some sporting their dogs on leashes. All ages descended, many familiar faces, many others less so. The line in front of the ice cream stand, directly across from where the News-Press was set up, remained over a dozen people deep all day. The News-Press, inclusive of its editor, has never missed fully absorbing a Memorial Day in Falls Church since before its founding in 1991. From its vantage point at its annual booth or from its Mustang convertible on the parade route, it has witnessed the growing up and growing older of so many in Falls Church, especially the young who never cease to look a year older when they’re back for the next festival, even as they progress through college, young adulthood and then with their own children in tow.
For Falls Church residents, it’s a unique ability to reconnect with so many that aren’t in the same place at the same time any other time during the year. There never cease to be flocks of Little Leaguers wearing their uniforms to march in the parade, or of flag-waving and happy children eager to be on the receiving end of a fortune cookie tossed from the News-Press vehicle, or other treats from others.
The parade has not only become a magnet for political candidates waving and shaking hands along the route, but for some magnificently colorful Bolivian dancers, inner city Baltimore marching bands, those irrepressible Shriners in their put-put cars, and many occasions for the City to honor its civic heroes.
For a community that can often get overly heated in its local politics, Memorial Day remains a day of harmony that returns once a year.