Brief History of Vet Events Tally

V.E.T. is a small but growing organization whose sole focus is on the organization, planning and execution of the Veterans Day Parade. For those who are interested in getting involved in the community with our local veterans, here’s a brief background of our organization.

Until 2003, VFW Post # 3308 organized the Annual Leon County / City of Tallahassee Veterans Day Parade They were a small group – organizing an event of this size and scope overwhelmed their volunteers so it was decided to turn the Parade over to the Leon county Veterans Affairs Service Office, hoping this would build a broader base of support.

Unfortunately, the County did not have adequate personnel or funding to support the parade as it was envisioned by the Veteran’s community either. Because of this, a decision was made to move the parade from Monroe Street, Tallahassee’s main north/south street, to Adams Street. The move from Monroe to Adams Street constrained the size of the parade because Adams Street is unsuitable for the operation of large military vehicles.

After the parade was moved to Adams Street in 2004, it began a slow decline in both participation and attendance. In both 2007 and 2008, parade participation had dwindled to less than 600 and attendance was under 2,000. Many Veterans were upset that the parade was receiving so little support while the nation was at war. In 2009, the parade was canceled because a tropical storm threatened to come inland on Veteran’s Day and there were no contingency plans in place in the event of storms or other unexpected events

The cancellation was possibly the best thing that has ever happened to the Leon County / Tallahassee Veterans Day Parade because it forced both the Veteran’s community and the community-at-large to reevaluate the importance and value of the parade and to work together to solve the problems that had led to the slow decline in attendance and participation. Everyone realized in order to truly honor the service men and women in our community, the Parade needed to become a partnership between the various Veteran’s groups in the community, the County and the City. No one group alone could do an adequate job of organizing the Parade but working together, much could be accomplished. After meeting with the Leon County Board of Commissioners to discuss the most effective way to form a partnership, Veteran Events in Tallahassee (aka. V.E.T. Inc.) was born.

In February 2010, The Leon County Board of Commissioners gave their blessing and a $2,500 grant to get V.E.T. Inc., up and running. V.E.T., Inc. then created a five year plan that included an all day festival in 2011, a 5K run in 2012, and a visit by one of the Traveling Wall Memorials in 2013 or 2014.

With the help of the entire community, both city and county government and agencies, local media and a lot of volunteers, the parade was moved back to Monroe Street and the local media got the public excited about Veterans Day. For the first time in recent memory, both major university marching bands (The Marching Chiefs of Florida State University and the Marching 100 from Florida A&M University) were going to be in the same parade.

The partnership has proven to be highly effective and the Parade has been an outstanding success since the formation of the collaborative partnership led by VET Inc. The County continues to provide a small amount of financial support, volunteer recruitment and acts as a liaison with the Leon County Sheriff’s Office. The City provides Parks and Recreation facilities and security, some materials and logistics support through the Tallahassee Police Department and the VIP show stage for dignitaries, which is set up across from the Vietnam Memorial each year. VET Inc, a volunteer organization of both veteran’s and non-veterans, assumes all other responsibility for planning, organizing and funding the Parade. The collaborative effort has paid off! The 2010 Parade had just over 3,000 participants. Conservative police estimates put a crowd of between 30 and 35 THOUSAND people on Monroe Street the first year to honor our communities service men and women. With your support, the Parade continues to thrive and grow and has become one of the best Veterans Day Parades in the nation!

In 2011, an all-day Festival that included food and craft vendors, Military displays and entertainment were added to the event. A 5K run was also created and had a turnout of over 150 runners. Hundreds of community volunteers helped make the Festival and 5K run possible and the crowds continued to grow for the Parade and the related events. Also in 2011 The Marching Chiefs provided approximately 25 buglers to play taps along the entire Parade route for our 11th hour commemoration.

This year, the Florida National Guard will be bringing in either towed mortars or Artillery pieces so the 21 gun salute marking the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month will be heard throughout the entire parade route. The Festival will take place in the Chain of Parks again and the 5K race, renamed the Allen Beal Memorial 5K continues to grow and attract more participants. As in 2010, we are hoping to have a live webcast online of the entire parade so anyone with an internet connection can attend.

V.E.T. Inc., spent just over $21,000 on the 2010 parade. The largest expenditure is for liability insurance. Other costs include printed and promotional items such as banners for our local Gold Star families honoring their lost loved one, for dignitaries and sponsors, color parade programs, promotional items such as 4″ x 6″ American-Made American Flags to hand out to parade attendees, t-shirts and safety vests for volunteers, radios for communications throughout the parade route and equipment rentals. V.E.T. Inc., also has monthly expenses such as rent, telephone, internet access, etc. which totals approximately $400.00 per month.

V.E.T. Inc., with the support of both the City and the County, is excited to be able to bring this grand event back to the citizens of Tallahassee in honor of all veterans. The VET Inc membership meets monthly December-June, bi-monthly in July, August and September, then weekly as the Parade draws near. Meetings are held in The Hootch on Lake Ella Mondays at 6:30pm. We welcome your participation as either a year-round or Parade-day volunteer. Parade sponsorships offer local businesses a way to show their support for our community’s veterans and along with donations from the community-at-large, allow VET Inc to continue to expand the activities associated with the Parade. Please contact VET Inc President Jodi Conway for more information about how you can get involved!