NAMPA — Thousands of spectators will stake out their spot in the early morning hours Saturday. They will spread their blankets, pop up their folding chairs and prepare to soak up the mid-May sunshine at one of Idaho’s oldest continuous parades.

Parade America — a patriotic tribute held on the third weekend in May to honor Armed Forces Day — traces its roots back to 1966 when members of the Nampa Exchange Club first organized the event.

This colorful tradition is one of the largest parades in the Gem State. Annually, it features an array of units ranging from precision equestrian riders and marching bands to antique automobiles and colorful floats. This year’s parade is no exception.

The theme for the 47th year is “This is My Country.”

The grand marshal for the event are the family of the late Roger Kotter, a key member of the Nampa Exchange Club who was an active member of the community. As a member of the Exchange Club, Kotter helped with the event for several decades.

The mayor’s float, built by members of the Teen Council, pays homage to Idaho soldiers past and present, including the 14 who have given their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan to protect our freedom. Its theme is “This Is Our Country: They Are Our Heroes.”

Marching bands from Nampa, Columbia and Skyview high schools and South Middle School are another highlight of Saturday’s parade.

Veterans’ organizations, law enforcement, firefighters and other first responders will also be represented in the hour-long parade.

Among the more than 85 units, other top attractions include the Ballet Folklorico Mexico Lindo dancers, Danza Azteca Tonatiuh, Miss Rodeo Idaho Erica Greenwood, the Gem State Guardians semi-pro football team, the Shake and Shine Puppeteers and Civil War reenactors.

Top-flight equestrian units include the fabulous Paso Fino Horses, a unique four-beat lateral footfall drill team. The Canyon County Sheriff’s Posse and 4-H horses will also be featured.

Vintage and classic cars will dot the parade lineup. The Treasure Valley Model A Ford Club and Western Idaho Model T Ford Club both will have six to eight automobiles in the event. The Valley Corvette Club plans to showcase 20 cars in the parade.

KTVB Channel 7 will broadcast the parade live.

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