Memorial Day Parade will march down Main Street Monday
Honored military veterans, brass bands proud and loud, drum corps and bagpipers, floats and fire trucks, Scouts and sports teams — they’re all scheduled to march down Main Street, some 2,000 strong, for the Memorial Day parade.
The parade is scheduled to start at 11:30 Monday morning, May 28, departing from the grounds of Jesse Lee Church, heading north on Main Street, and ending with ceremonies at Ballard Park.
Leading the parade will be grand marshal Dave Campbell, a Navy veteran who flew missions over Vietnam and has lived in Ridgefield for 41 years.
“The parade will begin with short opening remarks and a wreath laying ceremony at the monument in front of Jesse Lee Methodist Church with a military honors gun salute and playing of taps,” said American Legion Commander George Besse. “Proper protocol is for all to remain silent when taps is played, hold your hand over your heart; if you are in uniform you have the option to render a hand salute.”
The parade’s closing ceremony at Ballard Park will include speeches and patriotic music. Besse is master of ceremonies, and speakers are First Selectman Rudy Marconi; John Gillaugh, chaplain of American Legion Post 78; John Esposito of the Marine Corps League; Dino Calabro of Veterans of Foreign Wars; and Campbell, the closing speaker.
Vocalist Evelyn Carr will sing patriotic songs, and the Ridgefield High School marching band will play a medley honoring each military service branch.
“All are invited to this ceremony,” Besse said, “and we thank you for your support in making this parade one that truly honors those who gave their lives for our freedom.”
About 75 Ridgefield veterans are expected to march, including those from American Legion Everett Ray Seymour Post 78, Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3052, and the Ridgefield detachment of the Marine Corps League.
Elected officials expected include the Board of Selectmen, state Rep. John Frey (R-111), and state Sen. Toni Boucher (R-26).
A flyover by the Connecticut Air National Guard is anticipated. “We typically ask for a time frame between 11:45 and 12:15,” said Denis Loncto, the American Legion’s parade coordinator. “They do a whole bunch of towns in Connecticut.”
The weekend’s observances will begin Friday evening, May 25, with volunteers decorating 900 graves of former military servicemen and women in cemeteries off North Salem Road and North Street. Anyone interested in helping place flags on the graves is invited to meet at 6 p.m. at American Legion Hall, 71 North Salem Road — the old schoolhouse across from the cemetery. Participants should bring screwdrivers to make holes for the flags.
Parade participants should report to the staging area at Jesse Lee Church.
Vehicles and floats should line up on King Lane, approaching from High Ridge, at 9:30 — when King Lane will be one-way toward Main Street until the parade departs.
Marchers should gather at Jesse Lee grounds at 10. Parents dropping off children must enter King Lane from High Ridge.
“The drop-off area is just for dropping off participants; there is absolutely no parking
allowed except for authorized vehicles,” Besse said. “There will be American Legionnaires in all areas to insure your child gets to the designated area.”
After brief military honors — a gun salute and taps — at the war monument in front of Jesse Lee, the parade will head down Main Street to Ballard Park.
Seven bands will lead divisions of the parade.
First comes the 90-member Ridgefield High School marching band, then The Regulators Fife and Drum Corps from Bethlehem, Conn., the Celtic Cross Pipes and Drums from Danbury, Germantown Ancient’s Fife and Drum Corps from Danbury, the Danbury Drum Corps, the Sons of Portugal Band from Danbury, and the Young Colonials from Carmel, N.Y.
The Ridgefield Professional Firefighters and the Ridgefield Volunteer Fire Department will have contingents in the parade, including several fire trucks.
The parade will also feature SPHERE (Special People’s Housing, Education, Recreation and Employment); the Ridgefield Suzuki School band, led by Jessica McNamara; and two military vehicles, a World War II jeep and a half-track, owned by Andy and Gordon Knapp.
Youth sports teams are marching — Little League, girls softball, football, lacrosse, wrestling.
St. Stephen’s Church will have a barbecue selling its “artisanal pulled pork” before, during and after the parade, with funds raised supporting its HOPE youth mission trip.
If the parade is canceled because of bad weather — as happened last year — the closing ceremonies planned for Ballard Park will be moved to the sanctuary of Jesse Lee Methodist Church on Main Street at 11:30 a.m.
“We had over 200 last year,” said Loncto.
If weather is questionable, a committee will be meeting about 6:30 and announcements will go out early so bands and organizations that have been booked can be informed.
“We’ve got make the decision by 7 o‘clock,” Loncto said.
In addition, information will be announced on WLAD radio, 800 AM, ‘98-Q’ radio at 98.3 FM, and Channel 3 television, WFSB, Hartford.