Honoring Flag Day Since 1950,
Victory was achieved in World War II and the GIs came home. As Gold Star families mourned their losses, the “Greatest Generation” settled in and went back to work. Many veterans married and started raising families. National pride rose as veterans and home front civilians cherished memories of a job well done and reacted to the developing Cold War.
Reflecting this wave of patriotism, in 1949 the Appleton Elks Club made the decision to honor Flag Day with a community parade. The Elks, many of whom were WWII veterans, wanted each citizen to be proud to live in the United States of America and to appreciate their freedom. This same year, an Act of Congress signed by President Truman officially recognized June 14 as National Flag Day.
This strengthened President Wilson’s 1916 Proclamation declaring the 14th of June as Flag Day. On this date in 1777, “Old Glory” was adopted as our national symbol by the 2nd Continental Congress.
The first Flag Day Parade in Appleton was held in 1950. The route started at Lawrence College and proceeded west along College Avenue to State Street. Parade leadership in the 1950s included Mayor Robert Roemer, Russ Peotter, Alvin Tews, and Cliff Radder.
When Appleton turned 100 in 1957, the Centennial Committee expanded the Parade to the current route. Responsibility for the Flag Day Parade transferred to the City of Appleton in 1960 under the administration of Mayor Clarence Mitchell. Early members of the city’s parade committee were Ken Loos (Chairman), Glenn Utschig, Bill Selle, Merton Ericke, Dorothy Kemen, Delmar “Bud” Otis, Russ Lueben, and Bob Lathrop.
Chairmanship was passed on to the Otis Family in 1975, first under “Bud” and since 1985, his son Greg. Through the years, numerous volunteers have served on the Parade committee with the mission of producing a first-class display of patriotism.
Appleton’s parade is recognized as the nation’s oldest Flag Day Parade. It has evolved into a huge event drawing upwards of 60,000 spectators from all over Northeastern Wisconsin. They come to honor the flag, to thank veterans for their service, and to see scouts marching, bands playing patriotic music, floats displaying flag themes, elected officials greeting their constituents, and horses, old vehicles, and fire trucks passing by. The Parade has been broadcast on WFRV TV5 television since 1989.
Each year more than 100 units participate. The Parade has become a success for many reasons, including solid community support and focus. The high standards originally developed by Bud Otis have also created a quality event.
The Parade attracts military units and other entries from across the United States who want to be part of the nation's oldest Flag Day Parade.
©2019 Flag Day Parade Committee, Appleton, WI USA