By John Tozzi
The gala, at $100 a head, is expected to raise about $28,000 to cover a large portion of the cost of the parade, now in its 79th year. Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Borough President Helen Marshall are slated to attend. Among the honorees are Carol Conslato, director of public affairs for Con Edison in Queens; James Wrynn, a longtime member of the parade committee; James Flaherty, the son of a longtime parade organizer; and Walter Mugdan, a leader of the Udalls Cove Preservation Committee and the Westmoreland Civic Association.Victor Mimoni, a spokesman for the parade committee, said all the funds raised throughout the year go directly to putting on the parade. He said the parade is not meant to glorify war but rather to honor those who died defending the country.”After 9/11 the lesson's been brought home forcefully that the price of living the kind of lifestyle, our freedom, our liberty, is not without cost,” Mimoni said.Mimoni said he expects about 250 people to attend the gala this year, which will also feature a raffle, performers from the USO and a 12-person band from the Rainbow Room.Parade organizer Barbara Quigley Barba said the committee's activities stretch across the year to raise money for the parade, from a golf outing in the fall to the February gala. In addition, the committee organizes an art and essay contest for local students in the spring. On the day of the parade, the group holds a memorial service and an interfaith service.”A lot goes into the parade,” said Barba. “It honors all those people who did so much to keep us in a free society.”Mimoni said the committee decided a few years ago to have a larger gala to try to raise money from outside the community.”We're trying innovative ways to get funding for the parade itself and the other facets of our mission statement, which include educational outreach, helping veterans and preserving and caring for monuments both to veterans and to casualties of war,” he said.Mimoni said the parade, which has taken place rain or shine for 78 years running, has grown from a small local affair into the largest Memorial Day parade in the nation, with bands from as far as the Midwest signing up to march.”You only have to travel the length of Northern Boulevard to see that there are tens of thousands of people out there,” he said.Tickets for the Feb. 16 gala are $100 per person and the cocktail hour starts at 7 p.m. For more information, go to www.memorialdayparade.org.Reach reporter John Tozzi by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-229-0300 Ext. 188.