By Dan Spalding
LEESBURG – The pandemic didn’t prevent Leesburg’s annual Memorial Day Parade on Monday, May 25, but its impact was apparent.
Leesburg was one of the few towns that did not cancel Memorial Day events in Kosciusko County as a precaution against the spread of COVID-19, but organizers limited the parade to vehicles and banned the traditional tossing of candy to spectators.
Overall, the number of parade-goers lined along West Prairie Street appeared to be noticeably lighter than normal, but the enthusiasm for the festivities unorganized to honor those who died protecting the country was unwavering.
“We made these changes so we can observe the public safety measures and still honor those that paid the ultimate for our freedoms with their lives,” said longtime Town Council member Tom Moore in his pre-parade comments on a speaker system shortly before the raising of the American Flag.
“Our community has a long history of raising to every challenge. Today is just one more example of our patriotism, resiliency and flexibility,” Moore said.
Few people seemed to be practicing social distancing, but it was hard to actually determine since there was more room along the tree lawns of the parade path.
Only two people were seen wearing masks, and that was matched by two of the tractors in the parade that were adorned with white masks across the front of the engines.
People abided by the candy ban, but one parade entry tossed out rolls of toilet paper sealed in clear plastic bags.
Wayne Teeple, 95, was one of three World War II veterans who attended the parade.
Teeple said he was a bit surprised they did not call off the parade.
He said he was glad people turned out for the event but was greatly saddened that his wife, who is struggling with illness and in quarantine, and could not attend.
Sue Charlton, the driving force behind the parade for 30 years, said they waited to see how circumstances developed before making a final decision on whether to hold the parade this year.
“It’s different, but we’re handling it,” Charlton said.
After the parade, some spectators headed to Leesburg Cemetery for a ceremony. Music was provided by Anna Gibson and Mike Beezley.
Beezley, a local pastor, was the main speaker. Monday’s Memorial Day was one of the kind as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, which brought about its own kind of adversity, he said.
Beezley said he’ heard the debate over whether to wear the masks and take precautions and the complaints that those infringe upon peoples’ freedoms.
“And then I think about what our servicemen and women were asked. And what their families were asked,” Beezley said.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to correct the spelling of Anna Gibson’s name.