An estimated 30,000 people packed downtown Columbia on Monday morning for the 18th annual Salute to Veterans parade. Shade was at a premium as the temperature hit 91 degrees by parade time at about 10 a.m.
Spectators exploded with applause as the U.S. Army Black Daggers parachute team landed in three intersections on Broadway to start the event. The drums and horns of high school marching bands blended with bagpipes of the Boone County Fire Protection District Pipes and Drums group to accompany the classic cars carrying waving veterans, servicemen and women down the parade route.
The crowd — the largest recorded gathering in downtown Columbia, according to Columbia police Cpt. Zim Schwartze — clapped and waved at the 144 floats, looking to the sky occasionally as vintage and modern military aircraft hummed overhead.
The day was “near perfect,” Schwartze said. “It was great to see the positive side of the community.”
After the hour-long parade, a Memorial Day ceremony held at the Veterans’ Memorial at the Boone County Courthouse featured a speech by retired Maj. Gen. Arnold Fields of the Marine Corps. Fields, an honored guest for the events, commented on the large turnout for the parade and the air show, held at Columbia Regional Airport on Saturday and Sunday.
“This is a community that loves freedom and shows it,” he said.