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The Fresno Veteran’s Day parade, according to organizers, was the last of its kind to to call off its traditional recognition event because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

But, when it became clear in September that an actual parade wouldn’t be possible with California’s COVID restrictions in place – its leaders turned adversity into creativity. They say the annual patriotic event will still go on Wednesday … as a virtual tribute this time.

The Fresno parade began in 1919 and has been held every year since, with the exception of World War II, parade leaders say.

Dignitaries such as Mayor-elect Jerry Dyer, Congressman Jim Costa, and Fresno City Councilmember Garry Bredefeld will all make appearances this year. Organizers also say all of the organizations that took part in last year’s parade will all be seen.

“So we sat for five, six hours and said, OK, come on, we can do this,” said Virginia Cardinal, the parade’s coordinator of operations. She spoke by phone to GV Wire℠ from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. “It all worked out so far.”

Cardinal recently relocated from Clovis, but plans to continue helping to organize the local parade in years to come.

Cardinal says her committee spent money to hire multimedia production specialist Alex Fabros, and a veteran himself, to create this year’s video version. Fabros is putting the finishing touches on the virtual production that’s been weeks in the making, Cardinal said.

The program will be shown on CMAC’s cable TV channels and will also be streamed online via YouTube.

“So we sat for five, six hours and said, OK, come on, we can do this.”–Virginia Cardinal, parade coordinator

Multiple Production Locations

Cardinal says organizers spent weeks shooting on-location video at approximately 15 sites throughout the Central Valley.

Places like Biola, Coarsegold, Squaw Valley, and Fresno’s VA Hospital were turned into clandestine production sets for groups and individuals participating in the parade.

“We kept it very quiet because obviously with COVID and the governor’s regulations, we couldn’t have spectators,” explains Cardinal. She says organizers contacted all of the parade’s prior participants and even added a few new ones.

“We had them sign up for a date and a time. And we took their temperature before they entered our zone of the parade and they signed waivers and everyone wore a mask and we had social distancing and we would just video for hours,” said Cardinal.

Squaw Valley Most Difficult Location

“Squaw Valley was probably the most difficult because its when the fires broke out,” says Cardinal. “When I got in the car and looked at my face, I had black ash all over.”

She says production work began not long after the Creek Fire started in early September. Some people that wanted to march in the virtual production stopped down from packing up their homes for possible evacuation just so they could be a part of it.

“We had such a cute little boy that walked his goat in the parade. It was adorable. So we had him and his family out there,” said Cardinal.

She feels fortunate to have been able to get enough material before having to leave.

“It got to the point where, I mean, really, we needed to wrap it up because it was very difficult to breathe,” says Cardinal.

Special Tribute to Buchanan High School’s Eight

Eight alumni from Buchanan High School lost their lives while on active military duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. According to Clovis Unified, no other high school in the nation is believed to have lost more students during those wars.

We have a tribute ending it all to the Buchanan Eight,” says Cardinal.

When and How To Watch Fresno Veteran’s Day Parade

The virtual parade should run about 2 hours and 20 minutes.

Cardinal says the program will be aired on TV by CMAC 1 public channel from 12pm – 2pm (2 hour broadcast) starting at 12pm Wednesday.

CMAC 1 can be found on:

– Comcast Xfinity Ch 93

– AT&T U-verse Ch 99

– Web stream: cmac.tv/public/

– “CMAC” app available on Roku devices

The full video will also posted on YouTube at about midnight on Tuesday night. The link can be found on the Fresno Veterans Day Parade official Facebook page.

“We’re actually going to have it in three different parts,” explains Cardinal. “And the third segment will be all of the interviews that we did not use within in our main program.”

Merced Veteran’s Parade Plans

The Merced County Veteran’s Services Office is also doing a virtual parade.

Merced’s virtual Veterans Day will consist of a video depicting elements of the annual Veterans Day Parade. The video will include the pledge of allegiance, national anthem, interviews with Grand Marshals and a message from Congressman Jim Costa.

The VSO will also post pictures and short videos of the public honoring veterans on Veterans Day on its Facebook page.

The program will begin at 1 p.m. Wednesday and can be seen via the following outlets:

• Channel 97 (Comcast)

• Channel 99 (AT&T)

Facebook.com/MercedCounty

Merced County YouTube channel

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