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Ritual to remember: Dacula Memorial Day Parade a custom for many families

DACULA - Watching the Memorial Day Parade in Dacula is a tradition for Denise Powell and her 10-year-old daughter, Faith.

The two were among thousands who lined Dacula Road and Second Avenue on Monday as floats, military vehicles, antique cars, tractors and horses passed by.

Although Faith enjoyed collecting candy thrown by the parade participants, Powell said she brings her daughter to the parade to teach her about the meaning of Memorial Day: honoring those who died serving this country.

"We wouldn't have all the freedoms in this country if it wasn't for them," the Dacula resident said.

The theme of the 16th annual parade was "Remembering the Meaning of Memorial Day," but parade founder and chairman Marvin Atherton said the men and women who make the ultimate sacrifice should be remembered every day.

"Every day should be Memorial Day, not just today," Atherton said.

Lawrenceville resident John Davidson and his wife, Pat, have brought their grandson to the parade since he was a baby.

"This is the way we celebrate (Memorial Day)," Pat Davidson said.

John Davidson, who was in U.S. Navy from 1960 to 1963, said he sees the day as a time to honor all those who have served in the military.

Nicole Heyliger lives near the parade route. She's attended the event for eight years, but this year she brought someone new to enjoy the festivities: her 15-week-old son.

Heyliger said she especially enjoys seeing the horses and tractors in the parade.

"To see all the older veterans is kind of cool," she added.

When her son gets older, Heyliger said he'll learn about the importance of serving the country. His grandmother and aunt are veterans.

Tara Steffes of Dacula said going to the parade is a ritual for her family. When she first started going to it, she didn't realize it was the only Memorial Day parade in Gwinnett County.

"It's a downhome family atmosphere," she said. "I like being together with friends, family and the community."