By Paula Pedene

If you would have told me 25 years ago that we would be celebrating our Silver Anniversary of the Phoenix Veterans Day Parade, I’m not sure what I would have said or thought.

But here we are.  It began with our first parade in 1997 and a theme of “Salute to Patriots.”  On that Veterans Day, we marched down Central Avenue from Indian School Road to McDowell.  The tall, beautiful buildings and palm-lined spaces on Central made for a dynamic backdrop.  It was fantastic to see the 40-foot tall  Uncle Sam, Rosie the Riveter, and the 30-foot wide wingspan of the Eagle balloon fill the Street.  Due to the light rail expansion, our parade now heads South on Central, turns East on Camelback, and heads South on 7th Street to Indian School Road.  In 2021, we commemorate veterans on our 25th Anniversary with a theme of “Waving the Flag of Freedom.”

The Phoenix Veterans Day Parade takes quite a collective effort to become a glowing tribute to our nation’s veterans each year.  About two dozen of us begin planning the event in January and support it through its culmination on Veterans Day.  We gather community sponsors, and we brainstorm to select a theme. We prepare for the event with plans for staging the entries, conducting the parade march, distributing supplies along the route, and ready ourselves for the parade’s end with de-staging.  We add unique elements like honoring Veteran Grand Marshals from each military conflict from World War II to the present day. We build a patriotic spirit among our youth through the High School Essay Competition. We try to make our sponsors feel like VIPs because they are to us.

On the day of the event, the numbers tell our story:

  • 45,000 spectators.
  • 3,000 participants as parade entries.
  • 300 volunteers.
  • Nearly two dozen community sponsors.
  • A dozen team leaders organize the volunteers and coordinate with the entries.
  • Seven speaker towers along the route to provide information about the parade entries and their era of service to our country.

Despite some tough years, including a virtual event in 2020, the parade now marches down Central, turns east on Camelback, and heads south on 7th Street each year on Veterans Day.

We strive to make it a glowing tribute to the 500,000 veterans who call Arizona home.

We will highlight our Anniversary on social media during the next ten weeks by sharing our history through #FlashbackFriday. We might even give you a chance to earn some unique commemorative gifts by tagging us in your historical photos or answering some parade or military trivia.  To join in on the fun, though, you’ll need to follow us on these channels:

As we celebrate our Silver Anniversary, the story of our nation’s veterans continues. We hope you will join us for this year’s journey as we honor and recognize our veterans with the 2021 Phoenix Veterans Day Parade.

25 years of Parade Themes:

  • Salute to Patriots – 1997
  • Let Freedom Ring – 1998
  • Celebrating Our Freedom – 1999
  • Freedom Marches On – 2000
  • Freedom Isn’t Free – 2001
  • With Honor, Pride, and Patriotism – 2002
  • Heroes One and All – 2003
  • Remembering Their Sacrifice – 2004
  • Serving Home and Abroad, Honoring our World War II Veterans – 2005
  • Americas Veterans, Heroes through the decades Our 10th Year – 2006
  • Hearts of Valor – 2007
  • Serving With Honor – 2008
  • Home of the Free – Because of the Brave – 2009
  • Defending Freedom Protecting Dreams – 2010
  • Veteran’s, Our Resilient Heroes – 2011
  • Healing Wounds Honoring Their Sacrifice – 2012
  • Saluting Americas Veterans – 2013
  • Duty, Honor, Sacrifice-Celebrating Our World War II Veterans – 2014
  • No Longer Forgotten, Honoring Our Korean War Veterans – 2015
  • Welcome Home Vietnam Heroes, Celebrating Our 20th Year – 2016
  • Silent Sacrifice, Honoring Our Cold War Veterans – 2017
  • Out of the Trenches, A Century of Remembrance – 2018
  • Honoring America’s Heroes – 2019
  • The USA, A Beacon of Liberty – 2020
  • Waving the Flag of Freedom, Our 25th Anniversary Year – 2021
Image of 2021 Parade logo

This year’s theme is Waving the Flag of Freedom