Flags waving, busy streets, veterans saluting and military cars in tow; the Petaluma Veterans Day Parade and Flyover was underway. The streets were packed with children, families and veterans watching the celebration as each car passed.
The Petaluma Veterans Day Parade is the largest of its kind north of the Golden Gate Bridge. This event brings crowds from all over the county as well as the state.
This year’s parade also had not just one grand marshall, but four. The four grand marshals included Irv Giacomini, Owen Fredricks, Bruno Lombardi, and Robert Harriot who are all World War II veterans from Petaluma. Giacomini was an army engineer, Fredricks a marine pilot, Lombardi an army air corps pilot and Harriot was a part of the First Calvary.
As the grand marshals started off the parade, the crowd began to cheer with small American Flags waving in their hands. As people walked up and down the streets, they would see multiple veterans wearing either their military attire or just a simple hat with the words “veteran” stitched across.
The atmosphere was rich and warm with laughter and applause. Veterans and parade participants smiled from their vehicles, which ranged from firetrucks to old tanks and corvettes. Veterans were either walking or in a car waving and saluting to the crowd.
Along with veterans were Cub Scouts, Girl Scouts, law enforcement, firefighters and Sonoma State students.
A highlight during the parade was the flyover in which a large helicopter as well as fighter jets soared over the crowd, who cheered and applauded.
Tammis Bruno, a Sonoma State student who attended the parade, was in awe and felt the warm atmosphere in the air.
“I was so moved by the parade and seeing all of the veterans not only in the parade, but cheering on the sides,” said Bruno. “I was very surprised by the outcome of how many people came out to support our troops and veterans. This parade is a way to show support for those here and away on duty. My brother is currently in military school, and this is a way for me to pay tribute to him as well.”
One veteran stood on the sidewalk watching all the cars drive by with a look of astonishment on his face.
The spirit of Petaluma was quite positive and inspirational throughout the day.
Another Sonoma State student enjoyed her day at the parade as well.
“I loved how we all stopped what we were doing and came together to pay tribute and acknowledge all of the sacrifices these men and women do for us,” said Jennifer Price. “I really enjoyed how some veterans were also wearing their uniforms from when they had served which was really cool to see.”
The annual parade started in 1986 and has been going strong for the past 27 years. From 1967 to 1983 Julius Forucci and his World War I friends marched in the parade, but when one passed away and the other was ill, Forucci walked by himself carrying an American flag.
Three years later he was joined by 50 other veterans, and so the tradition began. Forucci died on Sept. 7, 1988 at 94 years of age, and during the parade that year a riderless horse led the parade in his honor.
Ever since, the parade has always been on the same day at the same time; Nov. 11 at 1 p.m., and has been growing in size.
In the early ‘90s there were 100 entries, and the 2012 parade had over 190 entries and an estimated crowd size of 35,000.
As the Petaluma Veterans Day Parade came to a close the flags stopped waving, the streets emptied and the salutes came to a halt.