Future of popular Veterans Day parade in doubt as VA pulls sponsorship

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By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland

PHOENIX -- Unless it finds a new primary sponsor and an experienced coordinator, the Phoenix Veterans Day Parade, a Valley tradition since 1996 and one of the biggest events of its kind in the country, might be shut down.

Phoenix VA Health Care System has sponsored the crowd-pleasing spectacle for years, but it looks like that 16-year partnership is over.

A VA spokesman cited concerns about liability and manpower in it decision, also saying the agency needs to focus on its job of delivering health care to Arizona's veterans.

Others believe the decision stems from an ongoing dispute between the agency and longtime parade organizer and former VA spokeswoman Paula Pedene. After more than 20 years, she recently lost her job after making allegations of a hostile work environment within the VA.

The VA says its decision regarding its future with parade has nothing to with Pedene or her situation.

The VA did not contribute money to the parade. Rather, it hosted complementary events, provided staging areas at its hospital and permitted Pedene to coordinate the event. She's done it since 1997. Losing her is a major blow.

"We have not been able to discuss the parade with her," said Katherine Brooks of Honoring Arizona's Veterans, the nonprofit organization that runs the parade. "That kind of puts us in a tough position because we didn't coordinate the parade."

Brooks said the VA's decision to pull its sponsorship was a surprise. With Pedene out of the picture, Honoring Arizona's Veterans needs somebody who can take on the massive job of coordinating the parade.

"I'm uncertain about the status of the 2013 Veterans Day Parade," Brooks said.

It's not clear how much support, if any, the VA will offer the parade this year.

The first Phoenix Veterans Day parade took place in 1996 and featured just 10 entries. The VA came on board the next year and the parade has grown steadily ever since.

With the theme of "Healing Wounds, Honoring Their Sacrifice," the 2012 Veterans Day parade featured more than 100 entries. Tens of thousands of spectators lined the streets of Central Phoenix to watch.

Veterans Day is Nov. 11, so Honoring Arizona's Veterans has a little bit of time to try and sort things out and salvage the popular parade.

3TV has been a media sponsor of the Veterans Day parade for the past several years, streaming it live here on azfamily.com.