Parade proceeds through Columbiana

Harry Moon (seated in center with American flag on shirt) was the grand marshal of Columbiana's Liberty Day Parade on June 25. (Reporter photo/Jon Goering)

By BRAD GASKINS / Staff Writer

COLUMBIANA – Thousands flocked downtown Saturday afternoon for the annual Liberty Day Parade.

The parade was part of a day-long celebration of military veterans and patriotism.

Fitting, then, that Harry Moon served as the parade’s grand marshal.

Festive parade participants toss candy to the crowd during Saturday's parade. (Reporter Photo/Jon Goering)

Moon, the veteran’s service officer for Shelby County, was in the Army for 28 years, serving in Vietnam and Desert Storm in Iraq before retiring as a first sergeant.

“Working with the veterans like I do, after spending 28 years in the military, it’s just like a continuation,” Moon said. “I had all my young soldiers I had to deal with all my life. Now I get to take care of the old ones at the end. Being the grand marshal is something that honors that.”

The Shelby County High School marching band and color guard make their way down Main Street during the parade. (Reporter Photo/Jon Goering)

Moon said he was thrilled to see veterans honored throughout the day, but said more should be done to honor veterans throughout the county and country.

“It’s something that can’t be done enough, not past or present or future,” Moon said. “We’ve just got to take care of them. Without them, and the ones coming up, we wouldn’t be here today.

Soldiers dressed in Revolutionary War-era garb fire their muskets into the air. (Reporter Photo/Jon Goering)

Honoring veterans “shouldn’t be relegated to the Fourth of July or a Veteran’s Day parade,” Moon said.

Veterans don’t look for statues or monuments or walls in their honor, Moon said.

“They just look for the fact that their family is being taken care of, and that they’re free to sit around and watch parades like this without having to worry about what’s going to happen next.

“Veterans do what they do to provide that stability and that freedom to do things like this parade,” he added.

The Liberty Day Parade makes its way down Main Street in Columbiana on June 25. (Reporter Photo/Jon Goering)

There are more than 14,000 veterans in Shelby County.

“If you look at Alabama, it historically and traditionally has always been the most patriotic state in the Union. We have provided more veterans than just about any state. Shelby County, for its size, is probably one of the top two or three in the state for veterans.”

Moon said he was impressed with the turnout for the parade.

“It was great,” he said. “For a hot Saturday afternoon, it was perfect.”

A cartwheeler entertains the crowd on Main Street. (Reporter Photo/Jon Goering)

Liberty Days began at the time when the Statue of Liberty was being renovated, Columbiana Mayor Allan Lowe said.

“The city at that time wanted to have a celebration to honor our country, our freedoms and our liberties,” Lowe said. “The parade just evolved into a way for us to show our support.”

The Shelby County High School marching band makes its way through downtown Columbiana. (Reporter Photo/Jon Goering)

The parade continues to draw more spectators each year, Lowe said.

“We probably topped the rest of them (today) by having a grand marshal who represents all of our veterans,” Lowe said. “I don’t know what the total number (of attendees) is yet, but from what I judge it looks like as many or more than we’ve ever had before.”

Liberty Day was to conclude Saturday night with live music and fireworks at Shelby County High School.

Young parade-goers get the chance to pet the horses that were a part of Saturday's parade. (Reporter Photo/Jon Goering)

SCHS dancers lead the color guard and marching band through downtown. (Reporter Photo/Jon Goering)

Bobby Joe Seales waves to the crowd and tosses out candy to the kids. (Reporter Photo/Jon Goering)

Miss Shelby County Megan Picklesimer rides through downtown Columbiana during the Liberty Day parade. (Reporter Photo/Jon Goering)