November 11 marks Veterans Day in the U.S., and many cities celebrate the patriotic holiday with a parade. One of the biggest Veterans Day parades of all makes its way down Fifth Avenue in New York City, attracting up to half a million flag-flying, red-white-and-blue-wearing spectators annually. It's also the oldest, starting in 1919.
The procession is organized by the United War Veterans Council (UWVC) and features a wealth of floats, marchers, bands, ROTC and veterans groups, active officers, and military family members. 2020's events will mark the 101st year of the tradition. An altered version of the parade will take place both in person (socially distanced) and virtually.
About Veterans Day
The tradition of celebrating U.S. veterans began with Armistice Day celebrations on November 11, 1919, when U.S. troops returned home from World War I. After World War II, Armistice Day was renamed Veterans Day, meant to honor and remember service members from all eras of American history.
Although public support of veterans waned in the '70s and '80s due to the controversy surrounding the Vietnam War, the effort to support and celebrate U.S. veterans has been strengthened amid the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars.
As opposed to Memorial Day, which honors late military members, Veterans Day is intended to celebrate the living. It's a federal holiday, so banks and schools close, but most other businesses remain open.
New York City Veterans Day Parade 2020
The parade takes place every year—rain or shine—on November 11. It is usually preceded by a traditional opening ceremony in Madison Square Park. A prelude featuring music and a flag presentation begins at 11 a.m. and a wreath-laying ceremony occurs at the Eternal Light Monument shortly before the parade commences up Fifth Avenue from 26th to 48th streets, starting at 12 p.m. The NYC Veterans Day Parade is always broadcast live on television, streamed online, and shown on Armed Forces TV.
In 2020, instead of having shoulder-to-shoulder marchers, the in-person event will consist only of a 120-vehicle motorcade—each vehicle containing a representative from regular parade participants—along with a motorcycle ride including veteran motorcycle groups and socially distant wreath layings at select locations throughout the city.
Spectators are encouraged to watch via a special 90-minute live broadcast on WABC, or on the event's social channels, where the UWVC will showcase more than 200 profiles of regular parade participants in a "virtual line of march" starting at 12 p.m.
The 2020 edition will honor the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II, the 70th anniversary of the beginning of the Korean War, and the 30th anniversary of both the end of the Panama Invasion and the beginning of Desert Shield, according to the event website.
More than 40,000 people participate in the parade each year, making it one of the largest in the nation. Among the number of notable groups, bands, and public figures featured, spectators can expect to see active military units from all branches, Medal of Honor recipients, veterans groups, and high school bands from around the nation. The UWVC typically names one or more grand marshals to lead the procession each year.