By Ayala Ben-Yehuda
The 76th annual Little Neck-Douglaston Memorial Day Parade is set for Monday with a whole day's worth of patriotic activities planned around what has traditionally been one of the nation's largest gatherings of its kind.
The parade march begins at 2 p.m. at Jayson Avenue and Northern Boulevard and proceeds west along Northern to the parking lot at St. Anastasia Church.
Organizers have been planning events and securing commitments from participants over the last several weeks, including the United Service Organizations' singers, the 3rd U.S. Army Fife and Drum Corps and Local 3 of the Electrical Workers' union whose members are slated to parade down Northern Boulevard on their American-made motorcycles.
Parade organizers have replaced the temporary flagpoles that have been used in years past with a more durable type as a long-term cost saver, said Victor Mimoni, parade organization spokesman.
The flags are scheduled to stay aloft until Flag Day, June 14.
“By not having to replace the flagpoles that we have, we hope to divert funds to the parade,” Mimoni said.
Flags and poles will extend down to the American Legion hall near the Douglaston Long Island Rail Road station this year in recognition of the Legion's sponsorship of the first Memorial Day Parade 76 years ago.
“That's no longer part of the line of march, but it's tradition,” Mimoni said.
The day will begin at 10 a.m. with an interfaith service open to the public at Zion Episcopal Church at 243-01 Northern Blvd. The service will be followed at about 11 a.m. by a wreath-laying ceremony, the raising of an American flag and the playing of taps at the corner of Northern Boulevard and Alameda Avenue.
Names of local soldiers killed in combat, submitted by the local American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars and community members, will be read at the ceremony.
“All of this relates to freedom and the price of freedom,” Mimoni said.
Coffee and bagels will be served at the annex of St. Anastasia Church on the corner of 244th Street and Northern Boulevard after the ceremony, to give marchers energy for the 1.5-mile parade at 2 p.m.
After the two-hour parade, awards will be given to participants in St. Anastasia's schoolyard, the national anthem will be sung and the public will dine on about 1,000 pounds of hot dogs donated by Hebrew National, Mimoni said.
The parade's relatively late start time, close to evening news broadcasts, makes it a magnet for politicians, but Mimoni said Mayor Michael Bloomberg has not yet committed to attending.
Bloomberg and Gov. George Pataki attended last year's parade, and Rudolph Giuliani was a regular participant during his years as mayor.
An awards luncheon Sunday at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, L.I. paid tribute to the parade's grand and division marshals, people of the year and community service honorees. The event's raffles raised about $1,500 for the parade, said Mimoni.
On Friday at 7 p.m., local schoolchildren will be recognized for their participation in the parade's annual art and essay contest. This year's grand prize winners are Walter Wang, a seventh grader at MS 67 in Little Neck, and Alex Lord, an eighth grader at the school. The two won for their art and poetry entries on the theme “the Spirit of '76.”
Awards will be presented by state Sen. Frank Padavan (R-Bellerose) in St. Anastasia's Father Smith Hall in a ceremony to be followed by a pizza party.
Reach reporter Ayala Ben-Yehuda by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 146.