By Kelsey Durham
Just two months after many residents feared for the future of the Little Neck-Douglaston Memorial Day Parade, the annual event is set to kick off Monday afternoon for the 87th year in a row.
Northeast Queens residents were jolted by rumors in late March that the parade might not take place this year after the committee that was previously handling the plans disbanded.
But following several meetings in which community members rallied and volunteered to take charge of this year’s organizing, the new planning committees have pulled together the parade that has often been bill as the largest Memorial Day celebration in the country.
The Little Neck and Douglaston communities came together each week since the middle of March and took on the challenge of starting the parade committees completely from scratch, relying heavily on the helping hands of the Manhattan-based United War Veterans Council, which agreed to lend its expertise to the people of northeast Queens for this year’s event.
The UWVC, which organizes the annual Veterans Day Parade in Manhattan, guided the community through how to raise funds and set up the event by forming several working committees to handle finances, public relations and other parts of the process.
With the help of a pair of successful fund-raisers, the parade committee, headed by elected chairmen Douglas Montgomery and Charlie McBride, was able to raise the nearly $30,000 needed to put on the show in just a few short months.
Area leaders were relieved to see the parade return to northeast Queens this year and said they look forward to continuing to honor veterans and soldiers through the tradition.
“I am proud to take part in the greatest Memorial Day Pparade in the country, a parade that continues to honor those who gave their lives for our country,” said City Councilman Mark Weprin (D-Oakland Gardens).
The committee also selected five honorees — John McHugh Sr., Thomas Dent, Rocco Moretto, John Peterkin and Lucy Salpeter — who will serve as grand marshals of this year’s event, leading the parade route at the head of the line and will be honored for their service during World War II, which was chosen as this year’s parade theme with the anniversary of D-Day approaching next month.
The parade will start at 2 p.m. Monday and will run from Little Neck to Douglaston along Northern Boulevard. The starting point will be at the border between Queens and Nassau County.
The annual celebration is not the only parade in the area that has faced recent financial difficult.
The Whitestone Memorial Day Parade has been struggling in the last few years to put together the necessary $8,000 in funding, but was saved this year by generous donations by the Greater Whitestone Taxpayers Civic Association.
Members donated a collective $2,000 to make sure the parade goes on and some members contributed as much as $250 individually.
The future of the parade was put in jeopardy in recent years as city and state funding dried up for the Whitestone Veterans Memorial Association, which organizes the parade and is a conglomerate of three veterans posts: the American Legion Post 131, the Jewish War Veterans Post 415 and the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4787.
The Whitestone parade will start at noon Monday at Whitestone Memorial Park, at the corner of 149th Street and 15th Drive.
Reach reporter Kelsey Durham at 718-260-4573 or by e-mail at [email protected].