Friday, July 4, 2008 | 4:26 p.m.
In a tradition that has grown with time, the 14th annual Summerlin Patriotic Parade attracted more than 35,000 spectators to the corner of Hillpointe Road and Hills Center Drive Friday morning to see a colorful stream of floats, bands, performing groups and giant helium balloons.
Among those in attendance was Summerlin resident Paweena Agbayani, who was watching the parade for the first time with her 4-year-old son, Dylan.
Dylan stood in awe as one of the parade’s highlights, a 33-foot-tall American Eagle balloon, cruised past.
“I moved here from Thailand six years ago,” Agbayani said. “I love this country so much and I’m proud to be American. This is what it’s all about: celebrating the red, white and blue.”
The Summerlin Patriotic Parade featured more than 60 entries, including a colorful “Under the Sea” float, a special tribute to Nellis Air Force Base and even marching Imperial Storm Troopers from the "Star Wars" saga.
The event is considered the largest July 4 parade in the Las Vegas Valley, and serving as this year’s grand marshal was Col. Kevin McLaughlin, vice commander for the United States Air Force Warfare Center at Nellis.
Not far from the parade, at the Starbucks Coffee on Village Center Circle, Susan Drnec was busy collecting coffee donations for her son, Mike Drnec, who is on the verge of a 15-month deployment to Afghanistan with the U.S. Army’s 1st Infantry Division.
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She began the fundraising campaign on Memorial Day after visiting with the other members of her son’s platoon.
“I asked them what they wanted the most while they were over there,” Susan Drnec said. “They told me a good cup of coffee. I guess Army coffee is not that good.”
So, she set up a booth at the Starbucks with pictures and poems about her 19-year-old son, and the donations came pouring in -- after only three weeks, Susan Drnec has collected more than 90 bags of Starbucks coffee that will be airmailed to her son’s platoon.
Even boxing champ Floyd Mayweather stopped by on July 3 to pitch in and buy a bag, and he left his signature on the display.
Mike Drnec graduated from Palo Verde High School in 2006 and immediately enlisted in the Army. His mother said he always had a burning desire to serve his country.
“Those guys work so hard, they sometimes go for 36 hours with no sleep in the freezing cold,” Susan Drnec said. “It just blows me away.”
One of the poems on display read "they're hard at work, twenty-four seven, a cup of Starbucks would seem like heaven."
“I was really shocked at the public response,” Susan Drnec said. “I’m overwhelmed at how nice people have been.”
Jeff O’Brien is a reporter for the Home News. He can be reached at 990-8957 or firstname.lastname@example.org.