WALKER, Mich. (WOOD) — Walker’s Memorial Day parade, one of the largest in West Michigan, was back this year after originally being canceled due to COVID-19 concerns.
Though city leaders had originally canceled this year’s parade, they decided to put it on as virus numbers leveled off.
There were some changes made to the parade, in order to keep people safe during the longstanding tradition. Though the parade is typically on Lake Michigan Drive, this year it took place along Remembrance Road. The new route was almost twice as long, which gave people more space to spread out.
Walker did not allow anyone walking outside of the cars that are in the parade and nothing could be tossed out to the crowd.
City leaders hoped that these measures would allow residents to safely recognize veterans.
“When you think of the veterans, the solemn day memorial that this truly is, it’s really it’s disappointing we would have had to knocked it off for two years,” Walker Mayor Gary Carey said.
Even with the changes, the parade marked a return to normal for some.
“It’s really exciting,” paradegoer Rachel Smith said. “Our kids haven’t been to any events in … over a year.”
She said with her family fully vaccinated, they are ready to be around others in person.
“This is fantastic,” fellow parade watcher Kris Palosaari agreed. It just feels so good, so normal.”
She was thinking of her grandfather, who served in the U.S. Army; her father, who served in the U.S. Navy; her husband, who was in the reserves; and her son-in-law in the U.S. Marine Corps.
“I just want to make sure we still stay with these traditions and never let them go,” Palosaari said.
Down the route, Shane and Lauren Dunkin were also happy to see the parade return.
“We live really close by, so it’s wonderful to see the community come together. It’s wonderful to see just everybody out and finally get back to normal,” Lauren Dunkin said.
They were thinking of their loved ones in the military.
“We’ve got all of our family and friends over there fighting for us. There are so many people who have sacrificed a lot of their time and energy to support the nation that we have,” Shane Dunkin said.
The parade started at 12 p.m. at City Hall and ended at Walker Village. Carey said it drew about 4,000 people.
—News 8’s Donovan Long contributed to this report.