The Rotary Club of Longboat Key follows the motto “service above self.”
When organizing events and service projects, members look for ways to bring that motto to life.
As President Jay Sparr and Past President Carol Erker explain, veterans personify that motto, which is why for the fourth consecutive year, Bay Isles Road will turn shades of red, white and blue on Veterans Day.
The Rotary Club of Longboat Key is in the midst of planning its annual Veterans Day Parade and Honor Program for Nov. 11.
For the first time since it began, the parade falls on a Saturday, which the club is hoping will attract more veterans and spectators.
The Longboat parade is a personal one, Sparr said. Many people who live on the island don’t like to attend parades in Sarasota or Bradenton, instead preferring to stay on the island. The Longboat location brings people out in their own neighborhood where they shop and go to the post office.
“I’m proud at how it’s been such a community event, even though we don’t have a downtown Longboat,” Erker said. “Between this event and the Fourth of July Freedom Fest, there is this gathering place where people are coming and waving flags and rallying around their neighbors.”
And to keep that community vibe, the club is hoping more veterans participate than in years past. In 2014, the club expected a couple dozen veterans to walk in the parade but were pleasantly surprised when about 130 showed up. That number stayed consistent in 2015 and 2016, and as of right now, the club is expecting the same number or more.
As usual, the parade will conclude with an honor program. However, this year’s honor program has a new spin.
Instead of having multiple veterans share short vignettes of their time and reflections from war, Ray Collins and Jacqueline Matter from ABC 7 will moderate a discussion between parade Grand Marshal Aaron Cushman, who served in the Army Air Corps during World War II and the Korean War, and retired U.S. Air Force Col. Christopher Valle, who served in the Cold War, Gulf War and later years. During the 1990s, Valle was selected as part of Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf’s flight crew.
The title of this year’s program is “A Conversation With Two Veterans” with a theme of “Then and Now: How Technology has Changed the Battlefield.” Cushman and Valle will give a synopsis of their time in the service. The moderators will ask them a series of questions comparing and contrasting the reconnaissance, communication practices and technology used during their service.
The Rotary Club welcomes all U.S. and allied nation veterans to participate in this year’s parade. The route is about a quarter-mile long beginning at Bank of America on Bay Isles Road and ending at Temple Beth Israel where the honor program will take place. For questions, or to register, call (609) 605-7025, (941) 806-9062 or (847) 337-3910.
To allow more veterans to participate, the Rotary Club is asking those who own convertible cars to volunteer to drive a veterans around the route who cannot walk. If you own a convertible and can help, call (847) 337-3910 or (941) 806-9062.