CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Wayne Newton, Big Bird and SpongeBob SquarePants are coming together for one cause: supporting the troops in South Charleston's 54th Armed Forces Day Parade.
More than 100 units will participate in the only armed forces day parade in West Virginia on May 18.
"We're just thrilled Wayne Newton is flying in to support the military. He's some of the highest-paid entertainment in Las Vegas. He's been dubbed the next Elvis Presley," said Bob Anderson, the executive director for the South Charleston Convention and Visitors Bureau. "Wayne is for us middle-aged folks, and for the kids we have SpongeBob SquarePants -- President Obama's favorite cartoon. He's sending SpongeBob in his place. The other is Big Bird. He almost got fired during the election, but he's alive and well, so he'll be in the parade, too."
Newton, known as Mr. Las Vegas, performed at the Clay Center three years ago, and Anderson has been writing him ever since to come to the parade.
"This year, I put 'County Roads, Take Me Home,' and he wrote back and said that he would come this year," Anderson said.
Marvin Masters and The Masters Law Firm is flying Newton in for $20,000. Newton is also donating his $85,000 appearance fee.
Newton's special guest appearance will not include a performance; rather, he will ride in the parade until it reaches the Mound. Then, he'll sit on stage with Mayor Frank Mullens to watch the rest.
"We always look forward to this parade, but this year, it will be even more special with all the different characters and Wayne Newton. But the parade's focus is and always will be on the military. Anything that attracts folks downtown to honor our armed forces is great. We can't lose track of the meaning of the parade," Mullens said.
Lawson Freeman, a Marine Corps veteran from South Charleston, will be this year's parade marshal. A military flyover is also planned at noon to honor the soldiers.
The parade will also include giveaways of minted gold coins and souvenir photos featuring Newton, and 2,000 American flags.