FAIRBANKS — Red, white and blue will be the color scheme in Fairbanks on May 12 as the community hosts a military appreciation parade and picnic.
Organizers expect 5,000 military personnel will march from Fort Wainwright to Pioneer Park. They’re hoping four times that many people will cheer them on.
The theme is Salute To Our Military Parade, which turned into the acronym STOMP, said planning committee co-chairwoman Lisa Herbert. She told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner that organizers hope the name will catch on elsewhere and that stomping feet will become a way to spontaneously thank service members.
“Back in the day you used to double-tap your heart,” she said. “How cool would it be if in the airport people would just stomp for our soldiers and our airmen?”
KTVF-TV weatherman Mike Schultz suggested the parade. He was inspired by the January parade that St. Louis put on for returning Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans to mark the end of the Iraq war.
Herbert is the daughter of an Air Force veteran. She is married to an Eielson Air Force Base airman serving in South Korea.
“To be a spouse on the side of the road with children, and being able to wave an American flag and see my husband or my dad walk in the parade just gave me inspiration,” she said. “And that’s probably the heart and soul behind everyone on the (planning) committee. We all have a relationship with the military.”
All veterans will be offered a place in the parade.
Most members of Fairbanks’ largest military unit, the 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, were in Afghanistan during the St. Louis parade but are in the process of returning. Hebert said 3,000 Strykers are expected for the Fairbanks event.
The parade route will include Second Avenue in downtown Fairbanks, where marchers will pass a reviewing stand and bleachers for dignitaries and the families of service members killed or wounded.
“We want to have the atmosphere created in downtown Fairbanks that is completely patriotic and gives the soldiers and the airmen and the veterans a sense that today is a great day to be an American,” Herbert said.
A picnic will follow the parade. Organizers are collecting money and seeking volunteers to help out. Wal-Mart has volunteered to contribute hot dogs and buns.