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Lakewood Ranch Community Activities takes over event once again

This year's May 28 Tribute to Heroes parade is expected to draw 5,000 spectators.

The award-winning Lakewood Ranch High marching band will again perform in the Tribute to Heroes Parade. File photo.
The award-winning Lakewood Ranch High marching band will again perform in the Tribute to Heroes Parade. File photo.
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Keith Pandeloglou took over Lakewood Ranch Community Activities in March.

He probably didn’t know that meant taking over the Tribute to Heroes Parade as well.

This year’s parade through Lakewood Ranch Main Street will be held May 28, and it is expected to draw more than 5,000 spectators.

After the 2016 version, East County Observer Associate Publisher Lori Ruth stepped down as the parade’s chairwoman. People wondered about the parade’s future.

Ruth asked Lakewood Ranch Community Activities if it would run the parade again, as it had in 2013-2014. She was told it would, and then Pandeloglou came on board.

“Of all the people who might have done this, Keith is the most competent person,” Ruth said. “I breathed a sigh of relief because I know when Keith says he is going to do something, he does it yesterday.”

If Pandeloglou has been thrown into the fire, he doesn’t appear to be sweating.

“We have a 15-person committee and a lot of them have been part of this for many years,” Pandeloglou said. “They have the historical knowledge, so we are in good shape. We have about 21 confirmed entries, and it’s just a matter of following up with everyone else personally. I think we actually are ahead in terms of participants. We could use more entries in the decorated bike contest.”

Ron Lambert, director of bands at Lakewood Ranch High School, said April 20 that his award-winning marching band will perform in the parade, so that lightens Pandeloglou’s load.

“We love them,” Ruth said of the Mustangs. “Ron knows this is an important community event.”

Other musical entries also have confirmed. Pandeloglou said Blue Sky Pipe and Drums and New World Celts are expected to march in the parade.

“We still need some sponsorships,” Pandeloglou said. “And we are setting up groups that will benefit if we cover our expenses. Another challenge is deciding how many off-duty police we will need.”

Ruth suggested Pandeloglou might discover some other duties along the way.

“You have to oversee volunteers, sponsors and the parade participants,” she said. “You need to develop connections in the community because a lot of things go on with that street party beforehand. You need to gather the veterans and get them to participate.”

Stepping down was a tough decision for Ruth, who said she was proud of last year’s event, which drew 72 entries and featured a pre-parade party.

“It was the best,” she said of 2016 Tribute to Heroes. “We had great entries, and what made it for me personally were those three entries from the Shriners. That was my favorite part of the parade when I was a kid.

“But it’s a huge job,” she said. “It’s great if you can find volunteers to head the committees.”

Ruth, who has been involved with the parade since 2010 and twice has been the chairwoman, said Amanda Zipperer, the property manager for Lakewood Main Street, has played a huge role in setting up the parade.

Pandeloglou expects the 2017 parade to be similar in size to last year’s event. He noted that Lakewood Ranch Community Activities has made it easy to sign up for the parade as a participant or a volunteer by streamlining its website, He has set up an event page full of information about the parade, which runs from 6-8:30 p.m. May 28.

“Everything is there,” he said.

Although everything has been running smoothly, Pandeloglou did admit to being nervous at times.

“It’s mind blowing quite frankly, when you think about how many people it takes to do this,” he said. “Just the magnitude of this event.”


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