Westport's annual Memorial Day parade stepped off smartly, under sun-splashed skies, Monday morning.

Thousands turned out for the annual salute to the men and women who sacrificed in the nation's wars. If they weren't watching the long line of march, they were marching.

The parade ended at Veterans Green with a ceremony of speeches, prayer and song in tribute to the fallen.

"I love the parade," Gary Seidner of Westport, whose daughter Grace sang the National Anthem at the ceremony, told the Westport News. "It's a great tradition."

"This is a great town," he said. "It's good to see everyone at their best."

He said Memorial Day is an important holiday, underscoring the commitment and sacrifice of American veterans. "We're proud to be here," he said.

Military veterans, bands and ballerinas, cadres of baseball, softball and soccer players, scouts, emergency first responders, town officials, clubs, councils and drum corps were all part of the nearly two-hour-long procession that ran about a mile from Saugatuck School on Riverside Avenue, across the Post Road bridge and ending in front of Town Hall.

"I was amazed how lucky we got on the weather," said Mark Lesher of Westport. "It was a beautiful day and a lot of great floats, and a lot of good participation."

Noted artist Leonard Everett Fisher, the parade grand marshal and a veteran of World War II, spoke of honoring those who served and suffered, but added, "There is no glory in war. There never was.

"The ugliness and the brutality of war can never be adequately described," said Fisher, 88. "Those of us who returned alive ... want no more of it," he said.

Fisher said that while many people on Monday would enjoy a holiday, spending time with family and friends, Memorial Day remains a time to remember "those men and women who never had a chance at an American future."

"I was not a hero," he said, but was just one of the lucky ones who came home.

First Selectman Gordon Joseloff, who is leaving his office in November, acknowledged this Memorial Day parade was his last as the town's top official.

"When people ask me what I like best about being first selectman, this is right up there," he said of the observance.