by Ellin Walsh
Cuyahoga Falls -- For the 75th time, the city continues the time-honored tradition of honoring America's fallen by hosting a Memorial Day parade May 28. New to the role of parade chairman is lifelong Fallsite Dave Sebastian.
Being parade chairman, Sebastian admits, "is a lot of hard work, but I enjoy it." Sebastian describes his involvement as "a way to give back."
The parade is scheduled to kick off at 9 a.m. May 28, at Portage Trail and Lillis Drive. The parade will travel east on Portage Trail, then north on Fourth Street to Oakwood Drive.
While he is not a veteran himself, Sebastian's son, Michael, is a Marine Corps reservist, assigned to a unit headquartered in Akron. Sebastian's father also was a Marine.
Sebastian's participation in the parade began when his four sons marched in it as Scouts.
"I've marched in the rain and sometimes it's been cold," Sebastian says, "but I can't even remember being on the sidelines, just watching."
After his youngest son attained the rank of Eagle, Sebastian says he began volunteering, assisting with set-up and line-up.
"And little by little, that led to where I am today," Sebastian reports. He estimates this is his 15th or 16th year of involvement with the event.
"And now, with my son being in the military, it's even more meaningful," Sebastian confides.
Being such an integral part of planning the parade does not give Sebastian a front-row seat to watch it on Memorial Day. He expects to head over to the State Road Shopping Center, where the approximately 107 units slated to participate, begin lining up around 7:30 a.m. Then, as soon as the last unit leaves the shopping center to begin its 1.8-mile trek to the cemetery, Sebastian says he hops in his car and drives over to Oakwood Cemetery. Last year, Sebastian recalls, rain forced the city's cemetery department staff to spend Memorial Day morning mowing and tidying up the grounds until the last minute.
Other special challenges for parade day include weaving the Woodridge High School marching band into the lineup after the parade is under way. The band performs elsewhere earlier that morning and literally arrives mid-parade, performs and exits for a third commitment somewhere else. The youngsters can't merely be added to the end of the line-up, Sebastian says, because time constraints make that impossible.
"So when you see the Woodridge band headed for Oakwood Cemetery," Sebastian says, "what you don't see is that the kids keeping marching past the cemetery to a waiting bus and their next engagement."
Sebastian is trying to arrange for an aerial photo of the parade to be taken as a special memento of its 75th anniversary.
"I'm starting to get butterflies," Sebastian says, "but once the first unit steps off, the momentum kicks in and then, before you know it, the parade is over -- and it's time to start planning all over again.
"That's how I like to spend the holiday."