A mere three years ago, the Fourth of July simmered in the summer’s heat without a rocket’s red glare. No one sparked the fuse that had sent fireworks blazing into Terrebonne Parish’s night sky in years past.
At home, festivities involved grilling burgers and hot dogs on the barbecue pit and watching celebrations around the country on primetime TV. There was no community hoopla over Independence Day.
On July 6, 2008, Ray Ordoyne, commander of the Houma United Veterans League and a World War II veteran, approached A. J. “Dr. D” dela Houssaye at the ophthalmologist’s office, SEECA, to discuss bringing back a community celebration in honor of veterans and the national holiday.
With an outpouring of help from sponsors and volunteers, Dr. D and the Regional Military Museum organized the inaugural Patriots’ Parade and Fireworks Display in 2009.
“We ended up raising about $80,000 to put the event on that first year,” Dr. D says. “It was amazing cooperation from the community. I have to give credit to Tony Alford, also. The first year, when I called up a man that I barely knew and explained what I wanted to do, he took the huge task of raising money and ran with it.”
On Saturday, July 2, 2011, the Terrebonne Parish Consolidated Government, Houma Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, Regional Military Museum, SEECA, HTV and many other generous donors will be sponsoring the third-annual Independence Day Celebration. The theme for this year’s event is “American Pride.”
The goal is to develop a long-term, enduring patriotic event for the community to enjoy. As this event evolves over the years, hope remains that it will always be a family event focused on the good of our nation. This event celebrates the service provided by those in the military, police and fire department. It is held to encourage the youth of our country to follow the honorable beliefs that our nation was founded upon and to celebrate being an American. Many of the volunteers come from the Veterans of Foreign War, American Legion, United Veterans League and the Regional Military Museum.
The celebration will start at 11 a.m. at the Veteran’s Memorial Park on Highway 311. There will be a ceremony honoring the service of our military, police and fire department veterans. At 12:30 p.m. participants will leave from the memorial for the Concord Plaza. At the plaza, veterans will board floats to participate in the annual parade from the plaza (in front of True Value), down Valhi Boulevard to the Houma-Terrebonne Civic Center. The Memorial and Patriots’ Parade will focus on the successful completion of Louisiana National Guard Charlie and Delta Companies’ mission in Iraq, as well as the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam conflict.
“It is our honor, as well as our duty, to recognize the men and women in our community who have served and continue to serve selflessly, to keep us safe,” said Robin Lejeune, co-chairperson of this year’s event. “We especially want to honor those who fought in Vietnam, who deserve the recognition that most were deprived of after serving during a most difficult time in our nation’s history. It is the least we can do.”
After the parade travels to the Civic Center, the celebration continues. Beginning around 1 p.m., there will be more food booths than ever before, a raffle and children’s entertainment throughout the day. At 5 p.m., there will also be a 5K run for adults and a “fun run” for the kids, both starting at the Civic Center.
A new event this year, the “Red, White and Bike” crit race will start at 8 a.m. and be sponsored by BG Bicycles. A criterium, or crit, race is a high-speed bike race held on a short course, in this case in the parking lot of the Civic Center. This action-filled race is a must-see for the Houma area.
The musical entertainment this year will be provided by Waylon Thibodeaux, the Houma Community Band, Papillion and the U.S. Navy Band. There will also be a skydiving team providing an exciting performance and a flyover by the U.S. Armed Forces.
“There is something very special about the sound of a fighter jet,” Dr. D says. “My father was a fighter pilot and that sound is unmistakable and brings with it such a flood of memories. I remember my mother would drop everything at the sound of the fighter jets and run outside to watch the squadron fly over the house. It would bring tears to her eyes and still does.”
The night will be capped off at 9 p.m. with an extravagant fireworks display. The best place to view the fireworks will be from the Civic Center.
“We are very excited about the entertainment lineup,” said Dawn Pierron, sponsorship coordinator. “The military and their families have sacrificed so much for us. It’s important to us and to our sponsors to celebrate them on this day.”