- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 27, 2006

Tourists, tunes and traffic tie-ups will fill the region as the annual National Memorial Day parade and other events bring hundreds of thousands for the major events of this holiday weekend.

More than 3,000 people are expected to participate in the parade, which will include bands, floats, active military units and hundreds of war veterans, from noon until 2 p.m. tomorrowalong Constitution Avenue Northwest. This year, returning troops from Afghanistan and Iraq will march in the parade for the first time.

About 50,000 spectators lined the Mall last year for the parade, which was only the second in the District since it was curtailed during World War II. The parade resumed in 2004 to coincide with the 60th anniversary of D-Day and the opening of the World War II Memorial.

The parade will follow the National Memorial Day Concert tonight on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol. The concert, free to the public, will begin at 8 p.m. Among the artists scheduled to perform are country music stars Lee Ann Womack; opera singers Frederica von Stade and Daniel Rodriguez; actor-singer John Schneider and the National Symphony Orchestra.

The unofficial arrival of summer will also feature other familiar sights, including Rolling Thunder XIX, a yearly mass motorcycle ride to show support for U.S. war veterans, prisoners of war and the missing in action. The event routinely brings 200,000 to 400,000 bikers to the region.

At noon today, the bikers, many of them veterans, will meet at the Pentagon then roll into the District, where they will rally at the Reflecting Pool across from the Lincoln Memorial. Gary M. Scheffmeyer of Pittstown, N.J., the organization’s president, said the riders will call for better health care for veterans, improved treatment from the Department of Veterans Affairs and an end to the department’s budget cuts.

Personal information for as many as 26.5 million U.S. veterans, including names, birth dates and Social Security numbers, was stolen earlier this month from the suburban Maryland home of a federal employee who took electronic data files home without authorization.

“If it was not for the veterans of this country, there would be no VA system, because they are the ones who put their lives on the line to ensure that our way of life is protected,” Mr. Scheffmeyer said. “Now it is time for the government to take care of those veterans.”

Adding to traffic woes, the Washington Nationals will finish a 10-game homestand with a 1:05 p.m. game against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Last Memorial Day, the Nationals eked out 3-2 win over the Atlanta Braves before an RFK Stadium crowd of nearly 40,000 people.

AAA Mid-Atlantic estimates that more than 450,000 area residents will drive to their holiday weekend destinations, despite gasoline costing nearly 90 cents a gallon more than it did last year.

For people trying to get around while avoiding the traffic crush, Metro’s rail and bus system will operate tomorrow on a Sunday schedule. Parking at Metro-operated lots will be free, and reduced fares will be in effect for the day. Bicyclists also will be allowed to carry their bikes aboard trains.

Elsewhere in the region, Rockville will continue its “Hometown Holidays” festival, which includes activities for children, fireworks and a free concert by Grammy-winning rock group Blues Traveler. The festival will conclude tomorrow with the town’s 62nd annual Memorial Day parade.

In Gaithersburg, a Memorial Day ceremony scheduled for Tuesday will include music and a wreath-laying ceremony. The events will begin at 11 a.m. at Christman Park, off of West Deer Park Road.

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