By Bill Parry
A sea of red, white and blue followed two armored vehicles up Greenpoint Avenue Saturday as over 1,000 marchers, most of them children, took part in the 47th annual Sunnyside Flag Day Parade. While there are several Flag Day observations around the city, Sunnyside is the only neighborhood in the five boroughs with this type of parade each year.
“We don’t have a Memorial Day [parade], so this is the one time each year that we get together and honor our veterans,” said organizer Anthony Lama of the Kiwanis Club of Sunnyside, the parade’s sponsor. said. “The flag is a very big deal around here. We like to call ourselves ‘The Small Town in the Big City’ and it gives us that old hometown feeling that it’s all about.”
It’s such a big deal that several elected officials chose to march with their constituents instead of attending Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign kick-off rally on Roosevelt Island.
“It was really nice they showed up — Cathy Nolan and Jimmy Van Bramer, a real Sunnyside guy,” Lama said. “But it was really nice to see Mike Gianaris here. We thought he was going to the rally.”
Brent O’Leary, the president of the Hunters Point Civic Association, who marches every year to honor his grandfather who escaped from Ireland after the 1916 Easter Rebellion, summed it up best.
“We all support Hillary but this is more important. Local always wins,” he said. “Besides, she’ll be alright without me.”
Former Community Board 1 Chairman Joe Conley has marched in at least 30 consecutive Flag Day Parades.
“It’s our signature, it really provides an identity for the neighborhood,” he said. “It’s great to see all of the community organizations, but it’s even better to see all these kids bringing energy.”
There is a friendly competition between PS 199 and PS 125 based on how many students take part. PS 199 wins almost every year due to the enthusiasm of Principal Anthony Inzerillo, who leads 350 students and many of their parents, chanting patriotic messages into a bullhorn.
“We have students representing 32 different countries that speak 35 languages today,” Inzerillo said. “We all come from different countries and we all recognize America as the best country in the world and so we celebrate the flag. We teach patriotism as part of the curriculum. We teach about the flag, the revolution and the Civil War, all of the sacrifices that came before us so that we’d have the privilege of marching in a parade like this.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr