Don Blankenberg, a veteran Marine and member of the James B. Crump VFW Post 2423 Honor Guard, will lead Indian Trail’s annual Christmas parade as the grand marshal on Sunday, Dec. 3.
Blankenberg, a member of the 1st Battalion, 3rd Marines, began his military career in 1967 with basic training at Paris Island and Camp Lejeune and jungle warfare training at Camp Pendleton. He was deployed to the Vietnamese Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) in April 1968 and returned in May 1969. After returning to the United States, Blankenberg was stationed at the 8th & I Marine Barracks in Washington, D.C., followed by a year at Camp David. Blankenberg retired from the military in July 1971.
A native of New York, Blankenberg relocated to Indian Trail, where his wife’s family is located. He worked in the tool and die industry for several years before returning to school to study horticulture at South Piedmont Community College. He then went to work for his father-in-law at Pine Lake Nursery & Landscaping, which he eventually took over when his father-in-law retired. Pine Lake, located in Indian Trail, has been in business for 53 years.
Blankenberg became involved with the James B. Crump VFW Post 2423 in 2007 when the Vietnam Moving Memorial Wall came to Indian Trail. He served for a time as chaplain for the VFW and is a member of the Honor Guard. The Honor Guard travels across North Carolina and neighboring states to serve at military funerals of Union County veterans. The Honor Guard also does the Presentation of Colors at local football games and business openings and participates in local parades. They also visit elementary schools to teach the fifth-grade students how to raise, lower, and properly fold the flag. The Honor Guard also regularly visits veterans at local nursing homes. In addition to his work with the VFW, Blankenberg is also the Deacon Chair at Pleasant Plains Baptist Church and is on the board of directors for the Stallings Fire Department.
The Indian Trail Town Council selected Blankenberg to serve as the grand marshal in recognition of his military service and the work he does for local veterans and the entire community.
“I appreciate the opportunity to be grand marshal for this year’s Christmas parade,” Blankenberg said. “It amazes me, really. I never dreamed that one day I would be doing this. I’m usually one of the veterans carrying the flags at the front of the parade, so it’s an honor to be selected to do this. I believe that we are all put here to help each other, and I’m grateful to still be able to do things for veterans and the community. I encourage everyone to find a way to help, especially those who live in nursing homes or assisted living facilities and need someone’s company.”
Blankenberg will kick off the Christmas parade at 4 p.m., riding in an Indy Pace Car Cadillac convertible. The parade floats will step off from Post Office Drive, travel straight down Indian Trail Road, and end at Old Monroe Road. There will be plenty of spots along the route to watch the parade.
“The Indian Trail Christmas parade is a long-standing and much-loved tradition that we look forward to every year,” said Hayden Kramer, Indian Trail’s Parks and Recreation director. “It’s the perfect way to bring the community together and get everyone in the holiday spirit. We’re excited for everyone to see this year’s parade lineup, which will include numerous festive floats, walking groups, and more. We’d like to thank Mr. Blankenberg for leading the parade as grand marshal and for his service to our country, veterans, and Indian Trail.”
Indian Trail’s Winter Fest & Tree Lighting will be held two days earlier on Friday, Dec. 1, from 6-9 p.m. at Chestnut Square Park. All are invited to attend and join in on numerous festivities, including s’mores and hot chocolate, pictures with Santa, crafts, games, and the official Indian Trail Christmas Tree Lighting.