When Guadalupe resident Veronica Forest saw a need for more Central Coast recognition of active and veteran members of the military, she took action. Indeed, since posing ideas to her community, Forest has seen the City of Guadalupe and the Guadalupe Cultural Arts & Education Center take up the cause. Together, they have developed the first Celebrate Heroes Parade, Concert and Barbecue happening in downtown Guadalupe from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. June 30.
A longtime Southern Californian, Forest says that when she moved to the tiny town of Guadalupe in Santa Barbara County three years ago, she was surprised that the Central Coast didn’t seem to have much in the way of celebrations — as opposed to memorials — honoring military personnel.
“If you don’t have a family member in the war, you are disassociated with it,” said Forest, director of the Celebrate Heroes committee. “We want to forge a bridge between the general public and the military families past and present who have sacrificed so much.”
Reaching out to both military and civilians from throughout the state, the event’s organizers expect more than 1,000 participants in the parade, which begins at 11 a.m. on Guadalupe Street (also called Highway 1 and Historic Highway 1), and will be led by grand marshal Col. Nina Armagno, Vandenberg Air Force Base’s 30th Space Wing commander, and will feature everything from Marine Humvees and bands to floats and convertibles carrying families of those lost in battle.
The parade route will end at Le Roy Park, where the 7,000 to 10,000 expected onlookers can enjoy a concert by The Rescue Crew, a 12-piece rock ‘n’ roll band that is part of the Air National Guard Band of the West Coast.
Catered meals consisting of oven-fried chicken with beans and salad for $7 per plate will also be available as well as barbecued items for sale by the Central Coast Vietnam Veterans of America Post 982. Doc Burnstein’s Ice Cream Lab is bringing out its old-fashioned ice cream truck to offer free dessert to active duty soldiers and their families who participate in the parade.
Forest said the day will be especially focused on “Gold Star Mothers and Families,” those who have lost a family member in active duty during any wars, past or present.
“Our goal is to recognize these families in a way that would make their loved ones proud,” she said. “We want to celebrate rather than mourn the lives that they led and the work that they did.”
Forest said representatives from Gold Star and Blue Star (those with family actively serving in the military) families will be invited to walk or ride in the parade, and they are seeking more participants from throughout the state.
“The City of Guadalupe has always been supportive of both our active and retired military,” Guadalupe Mayor Lupe Alvarez said. “For us, the Celebrate Heroes Parade is just our way of acknowledging and thanking our active men in woman in the military.”
Forest added: “The parade’s theme is ‘Stars and Stripes Forever.’ This is a great way to thank the people helping us to maintain just that.”
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— Malei Weir represents the Celebrate Heroes Parade, Concert and Barbecue.