The Dacula parade will now be helmed by grand marshal Larry Loper, a Vietnam veteran who served in the U.S. Marine Corps. Twins James and Jennings Watkins, 101-year-old World War II veterans, will not be able to attend the event due to health reasons. 


Marvin Atherton hopes those who attend this year’s Memorial Day parade in Dacula will remember what the day is all about and that youth in particular will understand the true meaning of Memorial Day.

The last Monday in the month of May is set aside to remember the men and women who have died while serving in the military, particularly those who died in combat or as a result of wounds sustained in combat — those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for their country.

“It is important that we take this opportunity to honor the sacrifice made by thousands of Americans who died guarding our precious liberties and way of life,” said Atherton, who founded the annual Dacula parade, now in its 28th year after a hiatus in 2020 due to COVID-19 precautions.  

“The first Memorial Day parade in Dacula was in 1994 with about 25 entries,” Atherton recalled. “Over the years the parade has grown and has had as many as 150 entries in a single year.”

This year’s parade theme is “So that We May be Free,” and the parade will step off at 10 a.m. Monday, May 31, rain or shine. The parade will be helmed by two grand marshals, 101-year-old twin Georgia residents and World War II veterans James and Jennings Watkins. The event will also include a military aerial flyover of two UH-60L Black Hawk helicopters, supported by the Georgia Army National Guard, C Company 1-106th Assault Helicopter Battalion and Army Aviation Support Facility #1 out of Winder.

This year’s parade has a new route due to construction on the new Harbins Road bridge at Highway 8. This parade will begin at Hebron Baptist Church and will turn right onto Wilson Street off Dacula Road, turn right onto Second Avenue, cross Broad Street to Hebron Church Road in front of Dacula High School and continue back to Hebron Baptist Church. The announcing stand has also moved and will be in front of the Shell gas station at the corner of Dacula Road and Fence Road.

“Memorial Day for me is a time of somber reflection and profound gratitude for those that have served and made the ultimate sacrifice for me and you to have the freedom we wake up to each day,” Atherton said.

Nearby in Sugar Hill, the city will host its annual Memorial Day Ceremony beginning at 10:15 Monday, May 31, at its Veterans Memorial across from City Hall at the intersection of West Broad Street and Church Street.

Sugar Hill city council member Brandon Hembree said the memorial offers an ideal place to honor and remember those who have served in the armed forces and those who have given their lives in service to this country.

“I love to see our community come together during events like Memorial Day,” Hembree said. “The community aspect of holding these events has special meaning to me personally.”

Hembree has an ancestor who died during the American Civil War and a great uncle who died serving in World War II, as well as family members who have served in various military branches.

“Both Memorial Day and Veterans Day are annual events of significance to me and my family,” Hembree said.

This year’s Memorial Day Ceremony in Sugar Hill will feature local high school student Cassie Christiansen giving remarks on the history of Memorial Day, while members of the Sugar Hill Youth Council will conduct various parts of the program. Rebecca Jordan with the Suwanee Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution will unveil a plaque honoring spouses of service members that will become a permanent fixture at the Veterans Memorial.

For more information on the Sugar Hill Memorial Day Ceremony, visit www.facebook.com/CityofSugarHill/.

To learn more about the Dacula Memorial Day parade, visit www.daculamemorialday.com/.

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Deanna Allen has served as editor of the North Gwinnett Voice since June 2021. Effective communication and creative design are her passions.

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