GAITHERSBURG — Residents of Gaithersburg and surrounding areas braved the heat Monday to attend the city’s 80th Labor Day Parade. The parade began in 1938 and has been celebrated every year since, except for 1942, which Gaithersburg Mayor Jud Ashman said may have been due to war rationing, although he couldn’t say for certain.
Dana McKay, a host on radio station 94.7 Fresh FM, served as the event’s master of ceremonies.
Numerous political candidates and elected officials, antique cars, cultural education groups, marching bands from area high schools, and music and dance performance groups joined the long procession through the city’s Olde Towne neighborhood.
“I think it’s an amazing tradition,” said Ashman. “It’s a chance for all the diverse elements that make our city go every day and make the trains run on time to showcase their stuff in our city, and we’re proud to have that tradition. In terms of all the politicians who attend, we’re happy to welcome everyone here, and I think it’s a good thing for people who will be in elected office to come and get to know Gaithersburg and meet our residents, because we want to be represented just like everyone else.”
Governor Larry Hogan, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ben Jealous, and County Executive candidates Marc Elrich, Nancy Floreen and Robin Ficker were among the candidates who participated in the parade.
Ashman said that attendance this year was somewhat reduced due to the heat, but several thousand people still showed up. He and the City Council members rode in a car and tossed the official parade coins to the crowd.
One of the attendees was Karen Silva, who grew up in Gaithersburg, moved away, and then moved back. “My daughter has a friend who is in the ROTC program,” Silva said. “So we decided to come and cheer him on.”
Silva believes that the Labor Day parade means a lot to her. “Reminds me of the freedom that we’ve been given,” she said,” and also the hard work that was the result of all the farmers that did all their work. It pays to work hard and have good results.”
The parade featured groups such as bands and dancers from countries like China, Bolivia, and Panama; high school groups around the county, such as Quince Orchard, Gaithersburg, Watkins Mill, and Seneca Valley high schools; athletic organizations; and cheerleaders marching down Diamond Ave.
“It’s a really great tradition,” said Ashman. “It’s a chance to really showcase, not just the diverse people, but all the diverse elements of our community that make it work every day.”
But a major highlight of the parade was the many politicians and their supporters marching, considering the state election is two months away. One of those politicians happened to be Governor Larry Hogan.
“I love nothing more than getting out among the people and hearing what the people are interested in,” Hogan said. “Gaithersburg’s a wonderful town. I think this community has been very supportive of us. We seem to be doing very well in Montgomery County.”
His Democratic opponent, Ben Jealous, was also in attendance alongside his supporters. “This is how we win,” Jealous said. “You convince people to turn out and vote. We help them understand that we can do better again. You can get back to doing big things again.”
Jealous attributed Labor Day to his work as a former union worker. “I’m proud to be here as the candidate who’s been endorsed by labor, by the AFL-CIO,” Jealous said. “I grew up in a union family. I know that strong unions make strong families.”
The County Executive candidates – Robin Ficker, Marc Elrich, and Nancy Floreen – also made appearances in Gaithersburg.
Ficker, the Republican nominee, enjoyed attending the parade and greeting everyone. “It makes me feel wonderful because I’m out here with all these lovely, intelligent, hard-working people from Gaithersburg, which is Montgomery County’s number-one city,” he said.
Ficker feels confident that his contribution to the city will help him win the County Executive position, succeeding Ike Leggett
“I am representing the up-County,” he said. “I am representing Gaithersburg, and we’re going to make up for lost time for Gaithersburg.”
Elrich, the Democratic nominee, has been going to the Gaithersburg Labor Day parade for more than 20 years.
“This is like normal for me,” he said. “I went when I was a City Council member in Takoma Park.’
Elrich, an at-large County Council member, also enjoyed meeting the people of Gaithersburg as the November election looms close. “Looking forward to meeting as many people as I can, and talking to as many people as I can,” he said.
Floreen, the independent nominee, also brought her supporters along for the march.
“It’s a great opportunity to meet people we might not ordinarily run into in the course of a campaign,” she said. “It’s a great opportunity to get my name out there. It’s a great opportunity to see old friends.”
Floreen has been serving Montgomery County residents for up to 30 years now. “It’s just fun,” she said. “I have so many friends from parts of the community. It is just great to catch back up with them, and make new ones here today.”
Other candidates marching with their supporters down Diamond Avenue included the County Council At-Large Democratic nominees Hans Riemer, Will Jawondo, Evan Glass, and Gabe Albornoz, District 3 Democratic nominee Sidney Katz, Democratic Congressional candidate David Trone, and Board of Education District 3 non-partisan candidate Patricia O’Neill.
“It seemed like an improvement over last year, a lot more fun,” said Gaithersburg resident Anne VanDercook. “I like being in Gaithersburg because there’s always something to do.”
D.C. resident Olivier Ballou visited along with his wife and children.
“The kids enjoyed seeing all the dancers, and their favorite was the dragon that the Chinese Cultural and Community Service Center put on,” Ballou said. “It’s interesting to see all the politicos and the different groups come out and participate. I think that says something nice about the community here.”
“It’s always great to come out and connect with the local community,” said Nikki Trikki-Savi, a member of the Black-Eyed Suzies team of Free State Roller Derby, who performed a demonstration in the parade with her teammates for the third consecutive year. “So many people focus on national campaigns, so it’s great to really connect with locals, because we’re a Montgomery County-based team, these are our roots.”
Harry Lichtman also contributed to this report.