Patriotism and heritage honored in Ironton with annual parade
IRONTON — At the corner of Quincy Street and South 6th Street in Ironton, the Ironton-Lawrence County Memorial Day Parade turns south. It’s a prime spot because the parade frequently stops here, with VFW members firing off 21-gun salutes and marching bands playing.
It’s also at this spot every year for the past 33 years that the Catholic community, supporting St. Lawrence and St. Joseph schools, host the Charity Fair. Coinciding with Memorial Day events in Ironton, the Charity Fair is a weekend-long event with rides, games, food and ending with a raffle during the parade.
Chris Monty, co-chair of 2019′s fair, said the event is the largest fundraiser for the schools.
“We have a lot of people who are in town so it’s the perfect weekend to do it,” Monty said, pausing to cheer with the crowd as St. Joe’s cheerleaders passed by on the parade route. “It’s a homecoming for Ironton, really. Overall it’s a good community event for Ironton.”
Ironton has been celebrating Memorial Day with a parade for 151 years. The two-mile parade lasts about three hours, and it touted as the longest continually running Memorial Day parade in the country.
This year’s parade featured approximately 1,500 entries, including area high school and middle school marching bands, fire and police departments, and veterans groups. Schools had produced floats, like Ironton Elementary School, which honored the Ironton Tanks, a semi-professional football team that played in town in the 1920s and 1930s.
The theme for this year’s parade was Tribute to Patriotism, which means different things to different people living in Ironton.
For Mike Haney, a Vietnam War veteran and lifelong Ironton resident, patriotism means defending our beliefs and defending others, while also remembering those who didn’t make it home, like a classmate of his wife who didn’t return from the Korean War. Patriotism also means honoring your heritage, he said.
“I’ve had family in all (the wars),” he said. “Can you believe it? I hope my grandkids don’t have to go. I hope they are reading the news.”
Laura Bush, an 18-year-old lifelong Ironton resident, said growing up in a town with such strong traditions of honoring those who have served has shaped how she views patriotism.
“I feel like a lot of people just come to the parade because it’s a tradition, they don’t really understand what it’s actually for,” Bush said. “I do love veterans, I respect veterans very much. This is something I can do to be respectful.”
She said to her, patriotism is about being grateful for the sacrifice others made for her and not taking that for granted, like she feels many do.
Similarly, Dani Owens, a parent volunteering at the Charity Fair raffle, said patriotism is loving the country and honoring the sacrifices made for us.
Monty said honoring history is patriotism.
“Seeing here, all the generations of people going all the way back to when the parade started and before that — we have a lot of history here in Ironton,” he said. “It’s nice to recall that.”
Follow reporter Taylor Stuck on Twitter and Facebook @TaylorStuckHD.