By Kelsey Durham
Residents of the Little Neck and Douglaston areas of Queens are joining forces with the United Veterans War Council to ensure that their decades-old Memorial Day parade does not come to an end this year.
About 50 concerned citizens met last week with the UWVC, the Manhattan-based veterans organization that organizes the city’s annual Veterans Day parade, to discuss strategies for planning this year’s Little Neck Douglaston Memorial Day Parade as the community starts from scratch with no leader to guide them.
The 87-year-old parade, which has been called the largest Memorial Day parade in the United States, was previously in the hands of the Little Neck Douglaston Memorial Day Parade Organization, a legal entity that dissolved last year due to lack of support from area residents, according to the parade’s website.
With no replacement committee in place to organize this year’s event, residents began to worry that the 2014 parade was at risk of not happening. But the UWVC, which has donated a portion of the funds used to produce the Memorial Day parade in the past, said it was willing to lend a helping hand this year and be the guiding force in order to get the ball rolling.
“We were hearing there was a good likelihood this year that there wouldn’t be a parade,” Vince McGowan, founding president of the UWVC, told the March 19 meeting at the Community Church of Little Neck. “How can that be? This is a standard. It’s Americana.”
At the community’s request, McGowan and his organization agreed to help start the planning process and came up with an organizational chart that could be used as a model. He advised the crowd to form committees and begin fund-raising in order to prepare for the estimated $30,000 cost of putting on the parade.
Several residents who attended the meeting volunteered to help with the planning of this year’s parade and agreed that the community did not want to see the beloved tradition come to an end.
“It’s very concerning to hear that the parade might not be happening,” said Jerry Vilbig, a former U.S. Marine who served in the Korean War and marches in the parade every year. “I’ve lived here since 1955 and this parade has been going on since 1927 and we certainly don’t want that interrupted.”
Although only 2 1/2 months remain until the holiday, McGowan said the UWVC would put its best foot forward to make sure the parade went on as expected as long as the community was fully committed to seeing it through.
He also praised the community for their involvement in the matter and said that the turnout the meeting brought in was a good sign pointing to how important the parade is to Little Neck and Douglaston residents.
“There is certainly no shortage of patriotism or energy to get it done — we just need to get started,” he said. “Whatever happened in the past is in the past, and we’re going forward now. You have something very special here and we don’t want to see it lost.”
McGowan said anyone with questions about the status of this year’s Little Neck-Douglaston parade can contact the UWVC’s help line at 718-428-5851.
Reach reporter Kelsey Durham at 718-260-4573 or by e-mail at [email protected].