A smaller live concert event at the Greenbrook Adventure Park in Lakewood Ranch will replace the parade.
While many Floridians debate whether they can return to their normal routines, Lakewood Ranch Community Activities will continue to be cautious.
Keith Pandeloglou, the executive director of Lakewood Ranch Community Activities, announced last week the Tribute to Heroes Parade would be cancelled for the second consecutive year.
"It behooves us to be conservative," said Pandeloglou, noting it was a difficult decision because the parade is Lakewood Ranch Community Activities' "beacon."
Pandeloglou said his board wanted to hold off as long as possible to make a decision about the parade, traditionally held on Memorial Day weekend (although it was held the previous weekend in 2019), because the landscape is changing so quickly in reference to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"We wait as close to each event as possible so we can get a realistic view to make a decision," Pandeloglou said. "We are planning 30 days at a time."
While the parade is cancelled, Lakewood Ranch Community Activities is hosting a live Tribute to Heroes concert 5-7 p.m. May 22 at the Greenbrook Adventure Park. The rock-n-roll band Whiskey Blind will be featured.
"We thought, 'What's our goal (for the parade)?'" Pandeloglou said.
He said the goal has been to honor the nation's fallen heroes and to raise some money for area veterans groups, along with giving people the opportunity to attend an outdoors event.
"We talked to area veterans groups and asked if they would be interested," he said. "We received a resounding 'yes.'"
A temporary stage will be assembled on the baseball field and lawn seating for a maximum 500 people will be spaced out so those attending can keep a safe social distance. Tickets will be free for Lakewood Ranch residents and $10 for nonresidents. Those who want to attend are asked to register in advance. Parking is free for veterans while all others are asked to give a $5 donation for parking.
"As Commander of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 12055, and on behalf of our members, it is our privilege to participate in this year's remembrance of those service members whom we have lost in the fight for our nation's causes,” said Graham Ellis, a Navy veteran. “As we follow in their footsteps, we look forward to assisting local veterans in need and supporting the schools and students in the Lakewood Ranch area.”
Although the concert can't match the parade in drawing power, Pandeloglou said he expects a good turnout.
"At the end of the day, people want to be outside," he said.
A large tent will be provided for veterans who need the cover while patrons are asked to bring their own chairs.
Revenue for the veterans organizations will be earned through the sale of beer and wine.
A master of ceremonies will lead presentations before and after the band's performance as well as at intermission.
Pandeloglou said he is confident Lakewood Ranch Community Activities will host the Tribute to Heroes Parade in 2022, but he admits he is unsure whether the organization's large events in the fall will be held. He said smaller versions of the events might still be in order.
"We still have to look at something ticketed," he said in order to control the attendance.
The pandemic has caused Lakewood Ranch Community Activities to develop a host of smaller community events, a parks program strategy that has been successful and one that will be continued after the pandemic eases.
Pandeloglou said 35 smaller programs have been added and another dozen are planned to debut this summer. Events also are planned for Waterside Place, the entertainment hub that is expected to be fully operational by the end of the year.
"In the first quarter of this year, we had 120 sessions of (the new events) which had 1,400 attendees," he said. "Half of those programs were free (to Lakewood Ranch residents)."
As an example, he talked about the success of the disc golf program, and the benefit of introducing people who attended to Bob Gardner Community Park.
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