BRISTOL — Town residents are hard at work planning the 16th annual Scouting Salute to Veterans Parade, which will be held in Bristol next November.
The event, which is sponsored by the Green Mountain Council of the Boy Scouts of America, is held in a different Vermont town each year. Veterans and Boy Scouts alike walk in the parade, which is held in honor of the men and women who have served in the armed forces of the United States.
“I believe it’s an honor for the town,” said Alan Smith, a parade organizer and the adjutant of Bristol American Legion Post No. 19.
Smith, who served six years in the U.S. Army in Korea and Vietnam, is one of several residents who are working to plan the parade.
“We’ve had two meetings, and we’re assigning different people to do different things,” Smith said. “We expect upwards of 1,000 participants, and we’ve requested a flyover from the Vermont Guard.”
The Veterans’ Day Parade Committee meets on the last Sunday of every month at 4 p.m. at the American Legion post near the Recreation Park. Smith encouraged members of the community interested in lending a hand to attend.
Smith said fellow veteran and Legion Commander Ron LaRose and his wife, Connie, have been deeply involved in the Boy Scouts and were instrumental in bringing the parade to Bristol.
“Connie has been involved in all 15 parades,” Smith said.
LaRose said a member of the Green Mountain Council approached him at the parade last year, which was held in Morrisville.
“I was eating a hot dog with the Scouts when someone from the council tapped me on the shoulder and said ‘I heard if we want the parade to go to Bristol, you’re the man to make it happen,’” said LaRose, who served for 39 years in the U.S. Army and Vermont Army National Guard.
LaRose said on the ride home from Morrisville, he discussed the idea with his son, Bristol Fire Chief Brett LaRose, and the two agreed that it would be a good thing for Bristol.
“We have a small rural community with a short main street, and our businesses and community organizations are always looking for something to host to bring people into the town,” Ron LaRose said. “There’s nothing better than to hold a parade of this significance.”
LaRose then met with the town selectboard and numerous business owners, who he said were supportive of the parade.
Smith said the parade will feature the Vermont National Guard 40th Army Band, high school bands, and a guest speaker who will likely be a military officer. He added that he hopes the event also will be a boon for local businesses.
Smith said that the parade committee is in the process of emailing every American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars post in the state to let veterans know about the event.
“We’re hoping to make it the largest one ever,” he said.
Peter Ashworth, the council program director for the Green Mountain Council of the Boy Scouts of America, explained how the parade got started.
“About 15 years ago, one of our volunteer Scoutmasters was a high school history teacher, and he started a parade to help teach kids in Scouting about the history of our veterans and their contributions,” Ashworth said. “We’ve hosted it ever since, and invite veterans groups from all over the state to come.
Ashworth said a volunteer committee vets applications from towns and decides where the parade will be held each year. It was held last year in Morrisville, and once before in Addison County, in Vergennes.
There are 4,000 youngsters involved in the Green Mountain Council, divided into 186 packs. An additional 2,000 adults volunteer.
Ashworth said he expects 700-1,000 Scouts to participate in the parade, which will be held on Saturday, Nov. 1. He added that the parade is a good way to educate Scouts on history and civics.
“One of the missions of Scouting is to create good citizens, and this helps our boys and older girls recognize important contributions veterans have made in our society,” Ashworth said. “Citizenship has been a longstanding part of the Scouting program.”
Area residents interested in helping plan the parade may make their intentions known to Ron LaRose at [email protected] and 453-7663.