When Jay Vigorito and Nick Gagliano heard a near-century-old Whitestone tradition was in danger of vanishing, they stepped up to the plate. But it will take a village to keep the tradition alive.
In recent weeks, Vigorito, past president of local sports organization Dwarf Giraffe, learned Whitestone Memorial Day Parade organizers were facing an imminent funding shortage. The 2019 parade was hanging in the balance.
Shortly thereafter, Vigorito approached fellow Dwarf Giraffe board members with an idea: the organization would donate the $10,000 necessary to fund next year’s event.
“The veterans have been having trouble over the last few years with donations,” Vigorito said. “Providing this funding should give the town and the community here, hopefully, two years to get their donations back moving again to keep the parade going.”
Nick Gagliano, current president of Dwarf Giraffe, officially announced the funding commitment at the Whitestone Veterans Memorial Association’s dinner dance on May 19.
“Every year, there’s always a story that we might not have a parade: there’s not enough funding, this and that. We couldn’t let that happen,” Gagliano said.
The announcement left the Whitestone Veterans Memorial Association “floored,” according to Mike Seeley, a member of the American Legion.
“We really applaud the Dwarf Giraffe organization for stepping up and helping to keep the parade in Whitestone,” he said. “It’s gratifying that we have an organization in the neighborhood that appreciates the parade and what it takes to put it on.”
The parade traditionally begins at 149th Street and 15th Drive with a memorial service and makes its way through Whitestone Village. World War II, Korean War and Vietnam War veterans march alongside a host of community groups, including the Girl and Boy Scouts, Greater Whitestone Taxpayers Association and local sports organizations. A number of elected officials also attend and march with constituents.
The annual event usually draws over 1,000 people.
Historically, the event is sponsored by the Jewish War Veterans Post 415, Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4787, American Legion Post 131, according to Seeley. Each group has seen dwindling membership in recent years.
“Every year it gets a little less, a little less,” he said. “Plus, families now have to have two earners and there’s really not time for men and women to get out and volunteer.”
Planning for the parade begins in January, Seeley said. During this time, organizers are hard at work fundraising, booking bands, inviting local politicians and groups and organizing the line of march.
While plans for next year’s parade are in motion, the long term future of the parade still hangs in the balance. Dwarf Giraffe will lead a number of fundraising efforts in the coming months to help raise money. The Whitestone Veterans Memorial Association will also seek assistance from local organizations and businesses to keep the tradition alive.
Donations to the parade can be sent to the American Legion at 10-20 Clintonville St., with checks made out to the Whitestone Veterans Memorial Association. An online portal is in the works.
“Memorial Day is not just a barbecue. That’s what people have got to realize,” Vigorito said. “There’s a reason for it. This parade reminds everyone what an important day it is.”