Memorial Day Parade honors military service
Loud and proud, with waving flags, brass bands and honored veterans leading more than a thousand marchers, the Memorial Day parade will proceed down Main Street on Monday, May 29, giving exuberant voice to Ridgefield’s patriotism.
“The parade brings the townspeople out to show their appreciation to those whose served and to remember, reflect and honor those who gave their all in order to protect the freedoms we enjoy as American citizens,” said Commander George Besse of Ridgefield’s Everett Ray Seymour American Legion Post 78, which organizes the parade each year.
“Memorial Day is a day of respect and reverence set aside to remember the American veterans who have served in the armed forces, making our country a safe and free nation,” said Denis Loncto, the Legion’s parade coordinator. “We also remember service personnel who are presently deployed throughout the world to ensure our security. Participation in our Memorial Day parade can be our way of showing appreciation and support.”
The grand marshal of this year’s parade is Dick Mayhew, who served as a flight instructor during World War II, and the honorary grand marshal is Air Force veteran Doug Clewell.
Seven bands and about 1,700 marchers — representing some 75 civic groups — are expected to take part in Monday’s parade, Loncto said.
On Memorial Day Monday, the parade will start at Jesse Lee, on the corner of Main Street and King Lane, and march down Main Street to Ballard Park, where closing ceremonies will be conducted.
Main Street will be closed from Route 102 (Branchville Road), through the village, to Pound Street, according to Capt. Jeff Kreitz. The detour will be in place from around 10:45 until around 1:30.
King Lane will also be closed.
“We usually only allow parade vehicles down King Lane once the detour goes into effect,” Kreitz said. “The parade will start at 11:30, and as a reminder, all parked vehicles must be removed from Main Street prior to the parade.”
Vehicles and floats will line up at 9:30, and marchers at 10, according to Loncto.
The parade is expected to start down Main Street at about 11:30 Monday morning, after a brief memorial service at the monument in front of Jesse Lee. The service will include a 21-gun salute, and some opening remarks from American Legion Post 78 Commander George Besse.
A fly-over by a C-130 plane from the Connecticut Air National guard is expected sometime between 11:45 and 12:15. Brian Hebert, son of Selectman Bob Hebert, will quite likely be the pilot.
DJ Big Daddy — Sean McKee — will again be announcing the parade’s various participants as they pass town hall.
After marching down Main Street, the parade will end in Ballard Park.
The closing ceremonies in the park will include words from Mayhew, Clewell, Besse, First Selectman Rudy Marconi, and Dick Truitt, commandant of Ridgefield’s Marine Corps League Detachment. There will be patriotic music by the Ridgefield High School Band, and also from vocalist Evelyn Carr. The ceremony will also honor the fallen with prayers, a gun salute and taps.
Vets, bands, Tigers
Veterans groups expected to take part in the parade include the American Legion, the Marine Corps League and the Veterans of Foreign Wars.
Organizers have arranged for eight bands: the Ridgefield High School Marching Band led by Mike McNamara, four bands from Danbury — Celtic Cross, the Danbury Drum Corps, the Germantown Ancients, and the Sons of Portugal Band — as well as the New Fairfield Sparklers, the Regulators Fife and Drum Corps of Bethlehem, and the Young Colonials of Carmel, N.Y.
Featured in this year’s parade will be representatives of various Ridgefield High School Tigers sports teams and competitive extracurricular activities that have had successful seasons this year.
“The kids will be in the parade,” Loncto said. “What we were told is they will have athletes and various clubs, and they will march, but separately, we’re told.”
And yes, there will be politicians.
The Legion expects the Board of Selectmen to march. State Rep. John Frey and state Sen. Toni Boucher are expected to participate, and possibly Congressman Jim Himes.
The Ridgefield Volunteer Fire Department, Ridgefield Professional Firefighters, and Georgetown Fire Department will be taking part, with firefighters marching and various fire trucks and other apparatus driving in the various divisions of the parade.
Others marching include a wide variety of civic groups, youth sports teams, and Scouts.
Among the organizations new to the parade this year are the Ridgefield Amateur Hockey Association, Ridgefield Guild of Artists, Ridgefield Youth Wrestling, Ridgefield Theater Barn, Ridgefield Thrift Shop, Exchange Club of Ridgefield, and the Ashurst Academy of Irish Dance.