Thousands view 49th annual Veterans Day parade in Auburn

Thousands of people lined Main Street in Auburn on Saturday for the city’s 49th annual Veterans Day Parade, waving flags and cheering as several generations of soldiers and relics of former wars passed by.

The parade began — as is traditional — with a flyover promptly at 11 a.m.

With military precision, a UH-1 “Huey” helicopter from the King County Sheriff’s Department swooped low over the city, paralleling the milelong parade route just as the final strains of the national anthem died away on the sound system in front of City Hall.

Auburn is designated by the Veterans Day National Committee and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs as a regional site for celebration of Veterans Day, and the event was one of the biggest Veterans Day parades in the country.

The weather could hardly have been better for a parade: crisp air, blue skies, and temperatures warm enough for shirtsleeves.

Parade organizers said more than 6,000 people participated in this year’s parade — walking, driving Harleys and ancient military vehicles, and riding on floats. The 203 entrants included 30 high school marching bands from communities throughout Western Washington, and Junior ROTC units, honor guards and active duty military units.

Auburn has hosted the Veterans Day Parade since 1965, the early days of U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War.

Stephanie Gates, 65, waving a tiny plastic flag as she sat on a planter near City Hall, is a veteran of that war. She was an Army nurse with the 24th Evacuation Unit in Vietnam in 1971 and 1972. Her husband was in Special Forces.

“I’m here because I’m a veteran, my husband is a vet, my son is in the Army, and my daughter-in-law is in the Army,” Gates said. “My family has fought for this country. We came over way before 1776, and we fought for this country and will fight for it to the bitter end.”