Fresno's Veterans Day Parade, known as the largest of its kind on the West Coast, will return to downtown Fresno on Monday for the 94th year but this time without one of its biggest cheerleaders -- Bill Dietzel.
"I know people will miss seeing him as the face of the parade -- he had that charming personality and you couldn't help but smile," said Lisa Tripp, organizer of this year's parade. "It's never the same when you lose somebody like that."
Dietzel, an Air Force veteran who died March 21 at age 79, was known to pour his heart and soul into making the parade bigger and better each year over the past decade.
He took over as organizer in 2000 when the parade had about 2,000 participants and grew the parade to nearly 10,000 veterans and their supporters by 2011. He stepped aside as organizer of the 2012 parade while battling lung cancer and was the grand marshal for last year's event.
This year's parade is expected to draw an even bigger crowd, with more than 10,000 participants and 200 entries, Tripp said.
"We want troops overseas and veterans to feel the love and appreciation they've come to expect from Fresno," she said.
The parade will begin at P and Tulare streets near City Hall with pre-ceremonies at 10:30 a.m. and opening ceremonies at 11 a.m. The official start kicks off at 11:11 a.m. The parade, which will end at Chukchansi Park, will last about three hours.
This year the parade will pay tribute to the U.S. Merchant Marine and special recognition will be given to nearly 60 local World War II veterans and their families.
"We want to honor the families, too. If you talk to any veteran, they will tell you how much their family's support means to them, especially if they were ever deployed," Tripp said.
KSEE (Channel 24.1) and the Pentagon Channel, an international military news network, will broadcast the parade.
Veterans Day weekend events
Visalia Veterans Day Parade: 10 a.m., starts at Main and Garden streets.
Sanger Veterans Day Parade: 11 a.m., in downtown. Details: (559) 999-1994.
Yosemite National Park free admission: The fee-free weekend (through Monday) is offered to all visitors in honor of current and retired service members and their families.
Veterans Day Celebration: 7 a.m.-4 p.m., Clovis Veterans Memorial District building, 808 4th St. Details: (559) 299-0471.
95th Porterville Veterans Day Parade: 10 a.m., Main Street from Morton to Walnut avenues. A moment of silence will be observed at 11 a.m. Grand marshal is Denver Tate, logistics and supply officer at the California Cadet Corps.
Porterville Band-a-Rama: Annual Veterans Day event featuring high school marching bands in a mass performance, takes place after the parade at Rankin Stadium at Granite Hills High.
94th Fresno Veterans Day Parade: 10:30 a.m. in downtown.
Ninth annual Hubbard-Baro Memorial Golf Tournament and Ceremony: 9:30 a.m., Fort Washington Golf and Country Club, 10272 N. Millbrook Ave., ceremony includes a 21-gun salute, military flag procession and salute to veterans. Details: (559) 434-1702.
Lemoore Veterans Day Parade: 6 p.m. in downtown. Details: (559) 924-9574.
"Remembrance Day": Presentation by author and lecturer David Styles, 6 p.m. Castle Air Museum, 5050 Santa Fe Drive, Atwater. Details: (209) 723-2178.
The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6659, email@example.com or @DianaT_Aguilera on Twitter.