Organizer says event was 'nonpolitical' and was planned 5 months ago

Friday’s flag-drenched caravan through Key West included vintage military vehicles, motorcycles, trucks — and a trailer full of bagpipers.

Longtime Key West resident Capt. Larry Gross said he started five months ago planning the Back the Blue & First Responders caravan to thank the city’s police, firefighters and first responders.

The event underwent a series of changes as Gross navigated the city’s COVID-related halt to special event permits. What started as a more traditional parade became a vehicle caravan that required no street closures or police traffic controls, Gross said.

“It was absolutely nonpolitical,” Gross said, emphasizing that the event had been planned long before — and had nothing at all to do with — the uprising that had erupted two days earlier in Washington, DC. “I told my people from the start, ‘No Trump flags, no Biden flags.”

Instead of marching as they typically do in parades, a dozen or so bagpipers and drummers with the Coastal Carolina Shields, performed aboard a flatbed trailer. 

“The guys told me they’d never played on a moving trailer before, but they were fantastic,” Gross said. “They’re a group of retired law enforcement guys in South Carolina.”

The caravan mustered at noon Friday, Jan. 8  in the Sears parking lot, proceeded down North Roosevelt Boulevard and Truman Avenue to Duval Street. Grand Marshal Rose Carmichael, 93, is the mother of retired NYPD Lt. James Carmichael, who now lives in Key West.

After the caravan, Gross officiated a wedding at Viva Saloon for two of its participants — Heather Rockwood and police Sgt. Chad Hermes from Illinois.

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