The last Anniversary Day parade in Ridgewood: Our Neighborhood, The Way it Was

Members of Redeemer Lutheran School in Glendale marching in the 2009 Anniversary Day Parade along Catalpa Avenue in Ridgewood.
Ridgewood Times archives

Public schools will once again observe “Brooklyn-Queens Day,” otherwise known as Anniversary Day, on June 6, as they have done for more than a century. But around Ridgewood, it’s not the same.

For decades, children and parents across the greater Ridgewood area looked forward to Anniversary Day, a celebration marked with colorful parades, faithful music and parties.

The holiday was particularly big among the Protestant congregations of Our Neighborhood. After all, Anniversary Day was an annual celebration of the first Sunday schools to open in Brooklyn, Queens and Long Island. But over the last half-century, as the congregations shrank, participation in the festivities around Ridgewood dwindled with it.

The 2009 Anniversary Day Parade was a shell of previous editions of the march. A few hundred people — mostly from nearby Redeemer Lutheran School in Glendale — walked a short distance along Catalpa Avenue in Ridgewood. The small gathering, however, did not diminish the enthusiasm of those who marched in celebration of their faith.

But that year’s Anniversary Day Parade proved to be the final one that Ridgewood would see. The sad news broke in the May 17, 2010, issue of the Ridgewood Times/Times Newsweekly. The story follows:

For the first time in a century, there will be no Anniversary Day parade through the streets of Ridgewood this June.

The Ridgewood-Glendale Sunday School Association announced on Monday, May 17, that the 101st march — scheduled to take place on Brooklyn-Queens Day on June 10 — would not take place due to a variety of reasons, including declining interest and reductions in police coverage.

“Because of the city’s fiscal crisis and budget cuts, the Police Department requested that we shorten the parade route,” said Wayne Vandermark, the parade’s grand marshal for 30 years, in a letter sent to the Times Newsweekly. “They were also unable to provide a police escort for churches farther out in Glendale who would be bringing floats to the parade.”

The decision to cancel the parade — an annual celebration by local Protestant churches of the founding of the first Sunday schools on Long Island in 1816 — was also made based on the poor turnout for the organization’s centennial march last year. Vandermark noted that “it was felt that there might be fewer participants this year.”

Born out of Rally Day marches held by numerous Protestant churches in Brooklyn during the 19th century, Anniversary Day was officially recognized by the state Legislature in 1905. Falling on the Thursday after the first Monday in June, the occasion was recognized as a legal holiday for Brooklyn public schools; approximately 54 years later, Queens public schools recognized Anniversary Day as a holiday.

The first Anniversary Day parade in Ridgewood occurred in 1910, with a host of local churches and Sunday School programs participating in the event every year. Schoolchildren who got the day off dressed up and marched in colorful floats decorated with streamers and posters with the Sunday school theme.

Musical members of each church played religious and patriotic hymns on drums, recorders, glockenspiels and other instruments as they walked through Ridgewood. Other congregation members strode down local streets with their pastor while carrying flags and banners bearing the name and affiliation of their churches.

A previous Anniversary Day parade along Fresh Pond Road in Ridgewood (Ridgewood Times archives)

Though the Anniversary Day Parade drew thousands of participants and onlookers for many years, the crowds dwindled as time went on and the congregations of local churches dropped in size. More recent marches drew hundreds of adults and children and the parade route was truncated to Fresh Pond Road between Myrtle and 67th avenues.

Last year’s centennial march included representatives of the Glendale Reformed Church, Redeemer Lutheran Church and School in Glendale, Ridgewood Presbyterian Church, St. John’s United Methodist Church in Ridgewood, St. Mark’s United Church of Christ, Trinity Reformed Church in Ridgewood, Trinity St. Andrews Lutheran Church in Maspeth and the United Methodist Church of Glendale.

The 2009 parade started with a brief prayer service at Catalpa Avenue near Fresh Pond Road, then proceeded westbound along Catalpa Avenue to Forest Avenue. The crowd then marched up Forest Avenue to 67th Road, then along 60th Street, 68th Road and 60th Lane before returning to the starting point.

But the shrinking number of participants combined with police cutbacks forced the Sunday School Association to reconsider plans for this year’s parade. Upon speaking with the leaders of local congregations, Vandermark told this paper in a phone interview, it was determined that the time had come to make a change.

“We did it for 100 years. We were happy to get to that point,” said Vandermark, who served as the grand marshal of the parade for the last 30 years. He thanked the community and all those who participated in past marches for their support through the years.

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If you have any remembrances or old photographs of “Our Neighborhood: The Way It Was” that you would like to share with our readers, please write to the Old Timer, c/o Ridgewood Times, 38-15 Bell Blvd., Bayside, NY 11361, or send an email to [email protected]. Any print photographs mailed to us will be carefully returned to you upon request.