Is Buena Vista's Labor Day parade fading?

Published: Aug. 30, 2017 at 5:45 PM EDT
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It’s been a perennial feature of the politics in Virginia drawing statewide office seekers from both parties in a tradition dating back decades.

A 1981 WDBJ report said: “The Buena Vista parade is almost a requirement for anyone running for political office in Virginia.”

Ronald Gravatt, Buena Vista Democratic Committee Chairman remembers: “My earliest recollection was probably Chuck Robb. Chuck Robb was here.”

While Rockbridge Area Republican Chairman Roger Jarell says: “In those days it would have been Marshall Coleman, yeah, and Vance Wilkins who would have been member for the House of Delegates then.”

But recent years have seen less attendance, and though all the Democratic statewide candidates will be at the party breakfast this year, “They’ve got other events they need to attend to that afternoon, and have said will not be coming,” Gravatt explains.

Leaving the parade as a mostly Republican affair.

“We’ve made a commitment," says Jarrell. "I know that Congressman Bob Goodlatte – I started out on his campaign in 1992 – he’s been attending it, wealking it ever since. So we’re going to do the same thing on Monday.”

Leaving local officials to feel that the hands-on, retail politics that made the small town parade such a big deal is maybe the thing slipping from their grasp.

“It was always required attendance," Jarrell says. "And the parade was always a huge part of it. And the parade was obviously was bigger in previous years.”

“I’m not a political operative, so I don’t know how all that works, but I really would like to see them get a little more up close and personal with the general public rather than just preaching to the choir at the breakfast Monday morning," according to Gravatt.