Born and bred in Fort Worth, Jack Zaetler grew up attending the All Western Parade as a boy.
Zaetler later moved to Dallas and had not returned to his hometown parade for years. That changed Saturday.
“This was on my bucket list before I die,” said Zaetler, bundled in a heavy coat and talking in a Texas drawl. “I love the western atmosphere and the people and the whole celebration.”
Zaetler was among the thousands who braved the chilly weather to line the streets of the downtown parade route to get a glimpse of the world’s largest non-motorized parade, which kicks off the Fort Worth Stock Show.
More than 200 groups from Texas and beyond marched in the two-hour long parade, which was led as always by the Fort Worth Mounted Patrol.
The Confederate battle flag has fallen out of favor in the past few months as many people and organizations nationwide associate it with racism and violence.
But this year’s parade was marked by one noticeable change. The Stock Show banned the Sons of Confederate Veterans from displaying the Confederate battle flag, which it had done in past years. The battle flag has fallen out of favor in the past few months as many people and organizations nationwide associate it with racism and violence.
To protest the Stock Show’s decision, scores of paradegoers brought their own, waving them from sidewalks and attaching them to lawn chairs. Members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans handed out small battle flags and literature that noted the battle flag is “under attack.”
Paul Martin, a Fort Worth native who now lives in Cleburne, strolled down Main Street carrying a large Confederate battle flag. Martin, a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, said he decided not to march in the parade this year because of the decision to ban the flag.
“This is an insult to our heritage and to the founders of Fort Worth, many of whom were Confederate soldiers,” Martin said. “We should be celebrating our history, not ignoring it.”
This is an insult to our heritage and to the founders of Fort Worth, many of whom were Confederate soldiers.
Paul Martin of Cleburne
Some of the supporters believed the matter comes down to freedom.
“A lot of people died under this flag,” said Trudie Rettinger of Fort Worth. “It’s not in rebellion. It’s a real issue of our freedom.”
Flags are a big part of the parade and many — including those representing Texas, United States and Mexico — were proudly displayed by those marching on Saturday.
While they could not carry the Confederate battle flag, as members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans marched through downtown they were met with scattered cheers, particularly after one marcher would periodically call out, “Good morning, Dixie!”
“To tell us we can’t have our flag is discrimination,” said Sons of Confederate Veterans’ member Addison Teague, as he handed out flags. “It’s our right and our freedom ... It’s not a racist symbol.”
Others attending the parade said the Confederate battle flags detracted from the parade.
The flags don’t really seem appropriate at an otherwise family-friendly event.
Linda Davis of Fort Worth
Linda Davis, of Fort Worth, brought her two grandsons, ages 6 and 9, to see the horses and cowboys and girls. Davis said she was taken aback by the flags but enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere of the old-fashioned parade.
“The flags don’t really seem appropriate at an otherwise family-friendly event,” Davis said. “I’m not sure that’s the image we want people to have of Fort Worth.”
Davis said she would like to return to the parade next year with her grandsons but hoped to see fewer Confederate flags.
“And maybe it could even be a little warmer,” she joked.
Zaetler, the Fort Worth native who lives in Dallas, said he did not mind the 40-degree temperature or brisk wind.
“They call this Stock Show weather,” he said, smiling.
Staff writer Mark Smith contributed to this report.