What Happened to Rochester’s Memorial Day Parade?

By DREW HOWARD

If you were wondering where the Memorial Day parade was this past Monday, you weren’t the only one.

For the first time in close to 20 years, both veterans and community members were not given the opportunity to march in the Greater Rochester Memorial Day Parade, which in years past has marched from Mt. Avon Cemetery in Rochester to Veterans Memorial Point in Rochester Hills.

The Memorial Day Parade is typically hosted by the Greater Rochester Memorial Day Committee, with assistance from Rochester and Rochester Hills. According to Rochester Mayor Rob Ray, the Memorial Day Committee discontinued the parade for two key reasons.

“We’ve been in contact with the folks organizing the parade, and there was some debate,” Ray said at the May 14 city council meeting. “The parade was decided not to be organized for two reasons. One, the movement of people back and forth between the two locations, and two, the organizers felt a lighter turnout.”

“There’s been talk the parade could be revisited in the future,” Ray added.

Alice Carleton, a retired veteran, and Vito Pampalona, Vice Chairman of the Rochester Downtown Development Authority (DDA), shared their disappointment over the decision during public comment.

“I think every small town in the U.S. has a parade,” Carleton said. “Once you lose something, it’s so hard to get the momentum going again. I think once it’s lost, it’s lost.”

“When we’re marching down to the point, looking at the little children with flags, it’s such a wonderful teaching moment for them,” she added. “This isn’t being taught in schools, the love of country. So it’s wonderful for parents to bring their children and see. I think it’d be a tragedy, if you want to use that term, to lose our parade.”

Pampalona, who is also a veteran, was equally upset over the loss of the parade. “I’ve marched in that parade many years – they say light turnout, and I disagree with that,” he said. “Young, flag-waving Americans look forward to something like this. Memorial Day is in memory of men and women who died for our country… the parade itself is an extremely important part of the fabric of this country.”

Following the veterans’ comments, Mayor Pro-Tem Russell admitted this was the first time she’d heard of the parade’s cancellation. “I just found out about this, I had no idea,” Russell said. “I know this is near and dear to many people’s hearts, as well as my own, to honor all the men and women who served our country and lost their life… I had no idea because it’s privately done.”

Both Ray and Russell agreed that while it was too late to do anything about the parade this year, but the council should take action immediately to reinstate the tradition next year.

Council Member Ben Giovanelli suggested that responsibility for the parade be handed over to another organizing body. “I feel like this is looking for an owner, and once you have one champion that would be the catalyst,” he said.

Ray agreed that there’d need to be a trade off in ownership of the parade, and said he thinks council would be able to find “able hands.” Moving forward, both Giovanelli and Ray hope to discuss the topic at a later meeting.

For more information about the Memorial Day Parade’s future, including how to get involved with the Memorial Day Parade Sub-Committee, contact Mary Modetz at mamo36@aol.com.