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Memorial Day march:Dacula parade honors veterans

DACULA - A 1.5-mile-long procession of American veterans, vintage cars and beauty queens marched, cruised and beamed through this rural town on Memorial Day.

Nicole Dolan, who grew up enjoying Americana in Michigan, was happy to see it thriving in suburban Atlanta.

"We used to always go to the Founder's Day Parade, and this reminds me of that," said Dolan, whose family joined several thousand others that lined Dacula Road.

"I'm glad to see there's still a place that celebrates our veterans and the sacrifices they made for this country," she said.

It marked the 13th straight year Dacula held a Memorial Day parade, and organizers say the event grows larger every time. A line of spectators wearing red, white and blue and waving American flags stretched from the high school to downtown.

Some 123 entries got on the parade roster this year, from Vietnam-era personnel carriers to riding lawn mowers.

Veterans from all wars were honored. Even Union soldier re-enactors got polite applause, but in proper Southern fashion the crowd still showed more enthusiasm for the Rebels.

This year's roster also reflected Gwinnett's increasing cultural diversity by including The Republic of China Veterans Association, which performed a traditional lion dance.

Founder Marvin Atherton said he started the parade in 1993 so Memorial Day would be remembered as more than just the official start of summer. It's supposed to be the day to honor men and women who died for the country, he said.

Using a loudspeaker, Atherton cited the number of American soldiers killed in major wars.

"Kids need to know what Memorial Day really is," he said.

John Hargrave, enjoying the parade for the sixth straight year, said he was proud of his town.

"I think it's important to have this event every year and for the town to support for what this day really means," Hargrave said. "It seems like no one else does this anymore."