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Toronto will mark WWI centennial with parade

MAKING PLANS — The Toronto World War I Memorial will celebrate its 100th anniversary on Nov. 11 and the Toronto American Legion Post 86 is hosting events beginning at 9:30 a.m. on Nov. 9 in celebration. Making plans for the event are, from left, Jim Litva, post commander; Tom Hannan, post vice commander; Pat McCourt; Gary McLeish; and Linda Beckett. -- Amy Neeley

TORONTO — On Nov. 11, 1919, an estimated 12,000 to 15,000 people crowded the streets of the Gem City to watch a parade of 3,000 led by 250 soldiers to dedicate the country’s first World War I memorial.

The Toronto American Legion Post 86 hopes to recapture some of that glory on Nov. 9 by hosting its own parade, gathering with speakers at the memorial and holding a dinner to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the monument and all veterans.

“We are hoping to copy what they did back then,” post Commander Tom Hannan said. “We want to draw as many people as we can to the town.”

Hannan said the group is looking for anyone that wants to march in the parade to take part, especially marching bands.

“The bands really make it,” he said.

Gary McLeish, a member of the Legion, said they don’t just want bands. He said any groups are welcome.

“Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, church groups,” he said. “And any child that wants to march is welcome to join in from preschool to high school seniors.”

The children are asked to be at Clarke Hinkle stadium at 9 a.m. if they wish to participate.

“Toronto has always been a patriotic town and we want people to come out and show their colors,” Hannan said. “I want people to come from both sides of the river, not because it’s Toronto but because it represents every soldier — not just in Ohio, but in the country. All gave some and some gave all, you know what that means.”

The day will kick off at 9:30 a.m. with the parade and then continue at 11 a.m. with the event at the memorial. The post is working with the Air Force to secure a military flyover on that day, promptly at 11 a.m.

Hannan said Col. Bernard Willis, who has been working with him to make this happen, is very excited about the idea, and they are almost certain it will happen.

“He is as excited about this as we are,” Hannan said. “Before this he never even heard of Toronto.”

McLeish warned if people want to see the flyover, they need to be ready.

“In the military 11 a.m. means 11 a.m.,” he said. “You will need to be watching the sky a few minutes before because you will see them fly by and not hear anything and then they will be gone and you will hear the boom. You have to be looking.”

The 11 a.m. event will also feature speakers including Toronto Mayor John Parker; U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio; U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson, R-Marietta; and state Sen. Frank Hoagland, R-Mingo Junction.

Later, at 6 p.m., the Legion will be hosting a dinner, which is free for veterans and available for $16 to guests. Veterans can pick up a form at the Legion hall to reserve a seat.

Anyone who is interested in participating in the parade, or who wants more information, should contact Linda Beckett at (740) 317-8594.

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