Writer Joseph J. Airdo
Photography Courtesy of Daisy Mountain Veterans

[dropcap]F[/dropcap]or the 14th year in a row, Anthem’s streets will be bustling with festive floats, marching bands belting out patriotic tunes, and community members of all ages waving flags to honor and support our troops.

The Daisy Mountain Veterans Parade kicks off 10 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 3 near Boulder Creek High School at Memorial Drive. From there, parade participants will march northbound on Gavilan Peak Parkway before turning eastbound onto Anthem Drive and coming to a halt near Freedom Way at Anthem Community Center.

The event is free and open to the public.

Sam Crump, president of Daisy Mountain Veterans, the umbrella organization for veterans’ activities in Anthem, said the event continues to get bigger and better every year, thanks to the efforts of the entire community.

“It is really just an old-fashioned, small-town, grassroots parade where everybody sort of knows everybody,” said Crump, noting that the parade’s floats and other entries have an endearingly handcrafted charm to them. “Anthem has a real history of patriotism and supporting our veterans that continues today.”

This year’s parade will honor veterans who served in Somalia, commemorating the 25th anniversary of the Battle of Mogadishu/Black Hawk Down. Daisy Mountain Veterans are inviting those who served in the conflict to come forward as grand marshalls in the parade. The event aims to highlight the sacrifices of our veterans and show support to our troops who have protected our freedoms through service.

“It’s just about supporting our community,” Crump explained. “It’s things like this that make the community what it is. This is our signature event every year and I know that the veterans just really appreciate it.”

Daisy Mountain Veterans has been determined to raise the bar this year, encouraging participants to add more color and creativity to their parade entries. He said that although everyone who registers at www.daisymtnvets.org by the Oct. 20 deadline is welcome, he hopes to see more people use their imaginations to show their appreciation of the men and women who have fought for our country.

“When people put a little more time and creativity into it, it makes things more interesting,” said Crump, noting that he wishes more marching bands were able to participate. “Everybody always asks us why we don’t have more marching bands. Unfortunately, this particular Saturday is always the statewide marching band competition.”

Nonetheless, spectators can expect to see plenty of patriotic participants representing all age groups, from North Valley Young Marines and Anthem Youth for Troops all the way up to residents from the area’s senior living communities. Crump noted that one of his favorite entries in last year’s parade was a Merrill Gardens shuttle bus carrying several flag-waving senior citizens.

One of the ways in which this year’s event will be bigger and better than ever before is the expansion of the charity picnic and cornhole tournament that takes place after the parade on the softball fields at Anthem Community Park. Anthem Young Professionals, a committee within the Anthem Chamber of Commerce, is organizing the post-parade activities.

“It compliments the parade and creates more to do,” Crump said. “We’re really excited because Anthem Young Professionals has brought in a whole new level of energy, and they’re doing a super job. It’s a good example of community cooperation.”

Anthem Young Professionals president Sawana Grimmett said this is the fifth time the group has held the cornhole tournament, but only the second time it has organized the charity picnic and partnered with Daisy Mountain Veterans. Earlier events benefitted Anthem Pets, a non-profit organization that promotes responsible pet ownership, provides medical care for abandoned and abused animals and works to reunite lost pets with their owners.

Gates for the charity picnic open at 11 a.m. In addition to several food trucks and a beer garden courtesy of the Rotary Club of Anthem, attendees will enjoy a video game trailer, an obstacle course, tethered hot-air balloon rides and a number of larger-than-life games such as giant Jenga, giant chess and giant battleship. Each attraction is sponsored by a local business.

The highlight of the event is the cornhole tournament, which takes place at 11:30 a.m. Grimmett said although day-of, walk-in tournament play may be possible, registration by Oct. 15 at www.aypaz.com is required to guarantee a team’s spot so that organizers have time to set up brackets and secure enough boards and bean bags. Registration costs $50 for each two-person team.

“I think that it’s just a fun game,” said Grimmett, explaining why Anthem Young Professionals chose cornhole over other potential games. “People get really competitive. They get really into it and a lot of camaraderie is built through it. We have had teams that have been with us throughout the five years.”

Last year’s charity picnic and cornhole tournament yielded $4,200 for Anthem Young Professionals and Daisy Mountain Veterans. Grimmett hopes to raise as much if not more this year but said the event’s primary purpose is to get people out of their homes and in the company of their neighbors.

“It’s a great way to get out there, get involved, meet your neighbors and support not only local businesses but also a charity while you’re at it,” said Grimmett, noting that participating in community events like the Daisy Mountain Veterans Parade and its accompanying charity picnic gives you a feeling of inclusivity and accomplishment. “I think that anytime we get out together and do really any kind of activity as a community, it benefits us overall.”

Grimmett said that the Valley’s weather is beautiful this time of the year and perfect for attending a parade and a picnic. Crump agreed, adding that he enjoys walking through the crisp autumn air to the parade and is fond of the feeling that the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays are right around the corner. Still, he acknowledges that planning the 14th Annual Daisy Mountain Veterans parade is a daunting task.

“It’s been a proud tradition,” said Crump, who is serving his first year as Daisy Mountain Veterans president. “I want to make sure it goes well. We put a lot of time and effort into it. So, for me personally, it’s a point of pride to keep a great community tradition going. Someday we’ll be celebrating our 25th and our 50th anniversaries.”