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Community members discuss Veterans Day celebration

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MainStreet Roswell hosted a public meeting Thursday night where nearly 30 people in attendance agreed that the longtime tradition of having a Veterans Day parade and ceremony should continue.

The hour-long meeting took place in the Archives Building at the Historical Museum of Southeast New Mexico to seek input on the best way to honor veterans.

Traditionally a parade has been held on the Saturday closest to Veterans Day, consisting of a ceremony on the lawn of the Chaves County Courthouse, a parade that typically goes up to the New Mexico Military Institute and a wreath-laying ceremony.

MainStreet Roswell Executive Director Kathy Lay said that in the past her organization helped the parade’s organizing committee. MainStreet Roswell has submitted an application to have the parade.

She said it is unclear though what direction the parade will take. Lay said that it is not known whether the Roswell City Council will waive certain fees that some organizations must pay to hold an event that uses city employees to cordon off streets, police to provide security or involves the use of other city property.

An application was submitted last week to the Roswell City Council’s Finance Committee to ask that the fees be waived. The committee composed of four members of the council will vote on whether to recommend waiving the fees before the full council takes up the issue, Lay said.

She added that what the council will decide and when the decision will be made is uncertain.

“We don’t know what they are going to fund, we do not know what they will not fund at this point,” she said.

Lay said she wanted to know if the city does not agree to waive fees, if MainStreet Roswell should raise money to pay the fees through sponsorships, other fundraising efforts or hold a different sort of event.

Possible parade alternatives that Lay said have been brought forward include a ceremony honoring veterans to consist of music from different war eras. Veterans would also be brought before the crowd and presented with thank-you notes written by school children.

“There are lots of things we can do,” she said.

Most in attendance said they want to have a ceremony followed by a parade as they have in years past.

Lowell Hughes, a 98-year-old World War II veteran at the meeting, said he used to drive his Mustang each year in the parade.

Although it would be better if more people would turn out to line the streets, he has always appreciated the ones that have. He said the cheers from the parade watchers and the way people would approach him to thank him for his service was something that gave him a sense of pride.

“If the city can’t afford to have a parade, then I think they are pretty damn cheap,” he said.

Lay said everyone she has talked to with the city said they want to do something to honor the veterans.

People at the meeting largely agreed that the parade should be expanded to allow at least some businesses to participate, and some vehicles be allowed to display banners and signs with the names of local businesses, so long as they don’t overshadow the veterans.

Bob Hazel of the American Legion, who has sat on the parade’s organizing committee in the past, said he thinks signs from businesses are fine, but that traditionally political signs have not been allowed. He said that ban on signs in the parade should continue.

Meeting attendees also talked about possibly shortening the parade routes, doing fundraising drives and reaching out to area schools to honor veterans during the celebration.

Events that could boost attendance at the parade were also discussed.

Danielle Thompson, a Veterans Service Officer with the New Mexico Department of Veterans Services, said there should be a focus on turning people out to the parade. She said that includes getting the word out to local radio stations and social media.

Thompson said that in other cities there have been classic car shows and food trucks that have helped boost turnout.

Hazel said that organizing a parade takes time and traditionally a committee would start organizing the parade in April.

People also discussed forming a committee to organize the parade and ceremony, along with several subcommittees for finance, outreach to schools, and organizing the ceremony and promotions.

No formal decision was made to create a parade, Lay said after the meeting.

Lay said a date has not been decided as to when the next meeting will be because they first want to find out when the Finance Committee will hold the meeting to make their decision whether or not to waive the parade fees.

She added after the meeting that she was glad so many people turned out to offer suggestions about a Veterans Day celebration.

“There were a lot of great ideas tonight, so we need to determine how we will move forward. We are glad to see so many in the community wish to help,” Lay said after the meeting.

Breaking news reporter Alex Ross can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 301, or at breakingnews@rdrnews.com.