The parade float normally used to chauffeur the royal court in the annual Daffodil Festival spring parades will have a different duty Saturday evening.
Decorated in red, white and blue instead of traditional bright yellow, the float will carry 25 wounded military service members down Pacific Avenue in downtown Tacoma as part of the second annual Celebrating Military Service Parade.
“It’s all military from start to finish,” said Steve James, executive director of the Daffodil Festival, which is organizing the parade in partnership with the City of Tacoma. “It’s as patriotic as you can get.”
The parade will begin at 6 p.m. at South 17th Street and Pacific Avenue, near Tollefson Plaza.
It will feature a variety of veteran organizations and about 70 military units from around Western Washington, James said.
After the event, spectators will have an opportunity to check out the military equipment up close and talk to active-duty and retired military personnel at the parade block party on Pacific Avenue from South 7th to 9th streets.
Although organizers did not have a count on last year’s attendance, James estimated 4,000 to 5,000 people came out to see the inaugural parade.
If last year’s crowd is any indicator, James said he expects the armored Stryker vehicles from Joint Base Lewis-McChord to be a big hit with spectators.
“Every kid loves the big toys,” he said.
James said the festival decided to change the parade route from last year to accommodate the large military vehicles and provide a better view for those watching. He said the parade route has been shortened by three blocks to concentrate spectators in a more central location.
Parades like this are often a source of pride for service members, said retired Brig. Gen. Oscar Hilman, this year’s parade grand marshal.
Hilman retired in 2005 after 37 years in uniform. He was the third Filipino service member to advance to the rank of general.
His last assignment was commanding the 81st Brigade, based at Camp Murray south of Tacoma. In 2004, he took the brigade to Iraq in what was the largest deployment of Washington National Guard troops since World War II.
“It’s an honor,” Hilman said about participating in this weekend’s festivities. “This parade means a lot to me.”