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Veterans Day festivities come to town with 'Black Mountain Salutes'
The Swannanoa Valley is not without a veteran presence.
Within its confines it holds a veterans home, a veterans cemetery, various memorials and a multitude of those who have served their country. One thing it doesn't have, however, is a Veterans Day parade.
That will change at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 11 when the First Annual Veterans Day Parade, one of three events set for that weekend as part of "Black Mountain Salutes," gets underway.
The event is organized by nonprofit Paws & Effect, which seeks to help veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. The Iowa-based organization was founded by Nicole Shumate, who expanded the operation to Black Mountain this year.
Among other services, her organization provides service dogs for veterans. The first litter of puppies, which are fostered by volunteers and trained for 90 days before they are placed with veterans. The first litter of puppies for the Western North Carolina chapter of Paws & Effect arrived on Oct. 13.
The lack of a local Veterans Day celebration in a place with over 7,000 registered veterans, stood out to Shumate.
"Last year was my first day living full-time here," said Shumate, who has owned a home in Black Mountain for several years. "As Veterans Day was approaching last year I picked up on the vibe that there wasn't much happening to celebrate."
Shumate organized a Fort to Flag hike, which will return this year as part of Black Mountain Salutes. The event, an American Volkssport Assocation sanctioned 5K,10K or 20K, will kick off at 10 a.m. on Nov. 10 at the Mountain Gateway Museum and Heritage Center in Old Fort.
"I really thought Black Mountain could use a Veterans Day parade," she said.
U.S. Army veteran Weston Hall, who has lived in Black Mountain for years, had long thought about bringing a parade to celebrate Veterans Day to the town. Shumate and Hall connected and began working on establishing one.
"Nicole has been integral in the process of pulling a parade together," Hall said. "We formed a group and started planning this around January."
The parade, which will run east to west along State Street, will get underway at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 11. The Paws & Effect puppies will be among the participants this year.
"The Swannanoa Fire Department will be sending its ladder truck and they will hang a flag," Hall said. "We have some JROTC units coming in and various veteran organizations. We wanted to make it an all-inclusive event where lots of people can come and celebrate veterans who are living and dead. We've reached out to a lot of vets and we're hopeful that a lot will come."
In addition to the hike and parade, the White Horse will host "Over There" from 2-4 p.m. on Nov. 10. The show will commemorate the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I with songs from the era. Tickets are $20 each and $10 for veterans.
Organizers are still seeking contributions from businesses and individuals in the community. Those interested in supporting the parade can do so through the Paws & Effect website at paws-effect.org or mail donations to Paws & Effect at P.O. Box 861, Black Mountain, NC, 28711.
"Having come from a community that does a big celebration for Veterans Day it felt odd that there wasn't something bigger here," Shumate said. "This is something we'd like to see become an annual tradition here in the Swannanoa Valley and Buncombe County."