Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility
Side of Ranch June 6

Kudos to Lakewood Ranch for another stirring parade

Veterans and first responders share the spotlight during the annual event

The fencing along the Tribute to Heroes Parade route did seem too constrictive.
The fencing along the Tribute to Heroes Parade route did seem too constrictive.
Photo by Jay Heater
  • East County
  • Opinion
  • Share

Lakewood Ranch's Eric Laschke, a former New York City Police Department officer, has had an interesting profession.

Laschke is a fingerprint specialist.

Now you might not understand the implication of that unless you were standing along the Tribute to Heroes Parade route May 26 on Lakewood Main Street and had a conversation with him as I did.

Laschke came with his family to not only enjoy the parade, but to support his friend, former New York City fireman Steve Lubrino. Lubrino, who survived the 9/11 attacks at the World Trade Center, was the parade's grand marshal.

It would be interesting to note that Laschke had never met Lubrino when they both lived in New York. That changed when they moved to Lakewood Ranch.

And while Laschke wasn't inside the World Trade Center moments before the South Tower collapsed, as was Lubrino, he was, indeed, there.

Laschke said he was stationed about a mile away, checking the victims' fingerprints in order to ID them. Imagine dealing with that emotionally for the rest of your life. Of course, first responders are been trained to deal with such trauma, and are much more adept with dealing with it as you or I would be.

It is just one more example of why I am OK with first responders getting a special discount, whether that is at a local business or even on their taxes. They do a job that most of us either wouldn't be able to handle or would want to handle. 

While Laschke didn't march in the parade, he certainly would have been the proper fit. The parade is situated on the day before Memorial Day on the calendar, but it isn't a pure Memorial Day parade. That is quite all right with me.

Our fallen veterans are most in our minds during the Tribute to Heroes Parade, but our living veterans, our current military members and our first responders also share the top billing.

Lubrino is not comfortable with the recognition of being the parade's grand marshal this year — and doing the Miss America wave from on top of a float — but he values the education that is available during the parade to children if they choose to absorb it. He hopes children learn about 9/11, and how America came together in its aftermath.

The parade itself is a moving history lesson, if they let it in.

So every year I give Lakewood Ranch Community Activities and Schroeder-Manatee Ranch kudos for putting in the time and effort to produce such as event. Also, please give a pat on the back to Peculiar Pub, Remy’s, Ed’s Tavern, McGrath’s Kitchen and Cocktails, and The Windsor of Lakewood Ranch for providing free food for the veterans meal before the parade at Town Hall.

I know the future will be full of challenges as we move forward (such as that staging area shrinking near the hospital due to development), but I dearly hope the parade continues through the years as a signature event.

So here is a look at some suggestions for future parades. Please note that I believe the parade, as it was this year, was a terrific event. These are just fine tuning suggestions.

GET RID OF FENCING — OK, I know that the fencing that appeared along the parade route this year most likely was the result of some insurance requirement, but please get rid of it.

I walked the parade route and talked to various parents and nobody I chatted with liked it, even though they had small children.

Kind of like watching entertainment from prison.

Use a few more security people, or more cones, or whatever, but that fence felt very restrictive.

I have been walking the parade route for a decade and I haven't seen any near accidents yet. Do kids run out to get candy or beads? Absolutely. But that's why the vehicles are going 5 mph and everyone is asked to be on high alert.

That's not to say we don't need to be extra careful in the future, but I do believe the fencing is over the top.

PRE-PARADE BAND — I-Ruption was a very talented Reggae band and very entertaining during the pre-parade party. This would be a great choice for Music on Main (if they already haven't performed).

Even so, it was an interesting Tribute to Heroes pre-parade band choice, to say the least. Maybe I am just old, but wouldn't the event have called for a band like the Lakewood Ranch Wind Ensemble (to play marches) or even a country band (to play patriotic songs)?

The pre-party part of the event is growing, so perhaps that needs some discussion.

MARCHING MUSIC — It's always been a tough ask that the Tribute to Heroes Parade include marching bands. Thank goodness the Lakewood Ranch High Marching Mustangs have shown up late in the process the past couple of years to give those in attendance that wonderful feel that only a marching band can provide.

I would note that in the staging area next to the hospital where the Marching Mustangs were warming up, all the parade participants were provided with some entertainment that had to get their hearts pumping. Nothing like the beat of multiple drums.

Can't something be done to line up Lakewood Ranch High, Braden River High and ODA bands far in advance so the parade can be a regular stop of their schedule? Sure, it's after school ends, and yet, summer parades all over the nation attract high school bands.

What can be done to make this parade important to them?

Are there other opportunities for music (the marching kind)? Please start now to lock it up for 2025.

START ON TIME — OK, things happen. I get it. But the parade beginning 15 minutes early this year was a mixup that could have been avoided. It's something that most likely is an easy fix in the future. Some of those in line near the hospital staging area were confused, to say the least.


Latest News