Air Force veteran Tony Filardi beamed Monday in recalling how parade-goers saluted him and thanked him for his service. For him, it never gets old.
That crowd, however, was thinner than he had hoped would show at the annual Veterans Day parade.
"Unfortunately, I didn't think we had the crowd we should have had," said Mr. Filardi of the Federation of War Veterans' Societies of Allegheny County, the event's organizer.
"I think thanking the veterans any time is great, but Veterans Day especially."
Those who did stand along the route of the 94th annual event Monday came as a matter of tradition, and others were witnessing the fanfare for the very first time.
Newcomers Tony and Averil Elliston, an adventurous couple from England who were in Pittsburgh for a conference, woke too early, saw news of the parade on TV and caught a shuttle Downtown.
Co-workers Dan Everitt and Tim Durila, both also veterans, have watched the event together with their families for nearly 15 years.
Melanie Abhinav, who grew up in Malaysia and moved from England to Pittsburgh in April, was trying to leave Downtown when she instead decided to watch the festivities with her infant daughter, who somehow slept through the powder gun blasts and blaring brass horns.
And Juanita Bradley of McKeesport and her son, William, cheered alongside her fiance, James Lawrence, a Navy veteran who served from 1963 to 1966 -- and hasn't missed a parade since.
Spectators applauded and waved small American flags as 77 veterans groups, marching bands and other organizations walked in the march, which started at Grant Street and Liberty Avenue and ended at Commonwealth Place off Boulevard of the Allies about 90 minutes later.
Mr. Filardi said he hopes to see more participants in the future, and his organization will discuss moving the event to Saturday next year to accommodate young vets who might have to work on a weekday.
The couple from England said they especially enjoyed seeing the marching bands loop through their selection of Armed Forces tunes at the event, a lot more lively than the solemn marches back home, they said.
"It's nice to be here and hear it firsthand," Mr. Elliston said.
Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald and Mayor-elect Bill Peduto walked in the event, along with other local and state politicians, Mr. Filardi said.
"We should be saying 'thank you' to veterans every day, but today is a special day," Mr. Fitzgerald said at the reviewing stand at the end of the route.
Mayor Luke Ravenstahl planned to walk, as well, but canceled a couple of days ago, Mr. Filardi said.
A spokeswoman for the mayor did not return a message Monday.
Molly Born: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1944 or on Twitter @borntolede.