November is parade month in downtown Johnstown.
It all starts with the Veteran's Day parade on Nov. 11 and ends with Hometown Christmas Parade and Light-Up Night Nov. 22.
Both parades march up Main Street and both are time-honored and beloved traditions.
One gives residents a chance to thank those who served our country and the other ushers in the Christmas season with Santa serving as honored guest.
For a time in Johnstown, veterans were not given the recognition they deserve and the annual parade had disappeared. That did not sit well with Harry Plows, a U.S. Army veteran of WWII. Plows decided that, if the city was not going to put on a Veteran's Day parade, he would do it himself. So each Nov. 11th, for several years, Plows would don his uniform, grab a flag and walk up the middle of Main Street. Call it a one-man parade.
People paid little attention, until state Rep. Ed Wojnaroski, himself a veteran, took notice.
Wojnaroski worked with other veterans to form Conemaugh Valley Veterans, which, in 1997, began hosting the annual parade. Plows served as grand marshall for many years. He died in March at the age of 97.
These days, the parade includes a cast of hundreds as well as floats, bands and military equipment.
The Veteran's Day parade kicks off at 4 p.m.
Coming downtown for the annual Christmas parade has been a family tradition for many years. But several years ago, it became even more popular as organizers incorporated the lighting of a giant Christmas tree in the center of Central Park.
Last year's parade drew thousands downtown. Although an early winter snowstorm kept four of five high school marching bands from participating, the parade included 42 units. Floats, giant balloons, fire trucks, businesses and community groups entertained those lining Main Street.
Members of Johnstown Symphony Orchestra sung carols from the gazebo as the crowd waited for the lighting of the nearly 40-foot-tall animated tree.
This year marks the fifth year for the tree, which is a project of Discover Downtown Johnstown Partnership. Melissa Radovanic, president of partnership, says the tree “is doing exactly what we intended it to do – bring people to downtown. New family traditions have begun, and that gives us a real sense of pride.”