As the founder of the Long Beach Veterans Day Parade, I want to clarify some misinformation regarding the parade, the parade committee and why we decided to end our 23-year involvement with this event.
The city of Long Beach Special Events has stated that they have been “the organizer of the event for multiple years” and that the committee only handles “ceremonial duties.” This is not correct. While the city does provide support in the form of traffic control, porta-potties, barricades and street cleaning on the day of the parade, the committee handles most everything else. We meet every month throughout the year to plan, coordinate and raise about $50,000 to pay our expenses. Neither Special Events nor the Ninth District councilman meet with us.
Our committee gathers all parade applications, coordinates the lineup and controls the pace of the parade. We choose the Grand Marshal, handle the flag and banner placement, arrange and pay for a grandstand, rent and distribute radios and golf carts, pay for and coordinate a military flyover, obtain and coordinate volunteers and print and distribute all advertising and programs.
We recently heard that in February of this year the City Council adopted a new policy with regard to events in the city and the way in which funding is handled. No one told us. We tried unsuccessfully to arrange a meeting with Special Events to better understand the new policy, but they were “too busy” to meet with us. It is now too late to implement.
Our committee is comprised of many dedicated Veterans who have worked hard for 22 years to make the Veterans Day parade a success. We did this in spite of many other roadblocks created by the city. For example, for many years JCL Barricades donated their time, manpower and equipment to the parade free of charge. In 2017, Special Events told us that we could no longer use JCL and the city started using another company, which charges the city $6,500 for barricades that we were obtaining at no charge. We also have to buy American flags, pay a vendor $7,500 to install them and then pay the city of Long Beach $60 for a permit to hang them.
Regarding the parade itself, the attendance along the parade route is almost nonexistent. Last year there were more Veterans in the parade than there were people watching. For that reason, we have fewer entries and no military vehicle support. To hold a Veterans Day parade along an empty parade route is embarrassing and does not honor our veterans. To hold a concurrent festival at the parade site further dilutes the meaning of the event and further illustrates the lack of understanding our city officials have for those who served in the military.
Let’s face it. This city has not been supportive of our military or Veterans since the Navy departed. The city has no city-sponsored ceremonial events on patriotic holidays such as Memorial Day, Armed Forces Day, 4th of July, Flag Day or Veterans Day. Some council members have never been to our Veterans Day parade.
For the above reasons, we disassociated ourselves from the Veterans Day Parade and will not be organizing or participating in it. The city is apparently going to attempt to have a parade on Veterans Day but it has been scaled back to a total of three blocks. That, in itself, is a slap in the face to all Veterans.
Jerry L. Shultz is a former Ninth District City Councilman and founder of the Long Beach Veterans Day Parade.