For decades, communities across our neighborhood have spent Memorial Day weekend not only at barbecues and beaches, but also at a litany of parades and vigils honoring those brave soldiers who sacrificed their lives in defense of our country.
But this year, Memorial Day weekend will be rather quiet across Queens, as those same parades and vigils have been postponed or canceled altogether because of the coronavirus pandemic gripping our city and country.
Memorial Day is not just the unofficial start to summer around Queens. Every year, our communities spend part of their weekend gathering for these parades to applaud the many veterans who march in them as a small token of their appreciation.
Veterans groups across our community are usually the primary force behind these parades, spending the better part of each year planning everything from securing the proper permits, to organizing marching groups, to nominating grand marshals, and so much more.
It’s not just a community service for these organizations; it’s a source of pride both in the country and in the neighborhoods where they live and work.
We gather that they feel a great deal of sadness knowing that the parades won’t go on as planned in the interest of public safety. But while the marches are stopped this year, we want to take this opportunity to recognize some of the local parade organizers who every year go beyond the call of duty to honor America on Memorial Day.
The Allied Veterans Memorial Committee of Ridgewood and Glendale organizes one of the longest-running Memorial Day parades in Queens. The organization is made up of more than a dozen veterans organizations in the communities that work together to hold the annual parade between both neighborhoods, along Myrtle Avenue.
Ridgewood and Glendale had their own separate parades until the neighborhoods unified for their first march together, in 1938. The current parade route is along Myrtle Avenue between the Glendale Veterans Triangle at Cooper Avenue and the Ridgewood Veterans Triangle at Cypress Avenue.
The direction of the parade, east or west, alternates each year. The march begins in Glendale during odd-numbered years, and in Ridgewood during even-numbered years.
The United Veterans and Fraternal Organizations of Maspeth is the driving force behind Maspeth’s annual Memorial Day Parade, generally held on the Sunday immediately preceding the holiday. Begun in around 1984, the community march begins at Garlinge Memorial Triangle (corner of Grand and 57th avenues) and snakes its way through the neighborhood before concluding at Maspeth Memorial Park, located at Grand Avenue and 69th Street.
American Legion Continental Post 1424 hosts the Forest Hills Memorial Day parade along Metropolitan Avenue. The annual march usually starts near the post’s headquarters on Metropolitan Avenue near Ascan Avenue, then heads east toward Remsen Cemetery Park, just off the corner of Trotting Course Lane and Alderton Street.
The cemetery holds some of the remains of the Jeromus Remsen family, which dates back to the Colonial era; many of the family members fought on the Patriot side during the American Revolution.
The Little Neck-Douglaston Memorial Day Parade Committee organizes what’s considered to be the oldest continuous Memorial Day march in the country. The march, first held in 1927, generally marches along Northern Boulevard between Jayson Avenue in Great Neck and 245th Street in Douglaston.
On the parade’s official website, Chair Tom Carty offered some advice to local residents on how they can best commemorate Memorial Day this year.
“The Parade Board asks that this Memorial Day you pause, from the safety of your own home, to honor the service men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice,” he wrote. “We ask that you pray for their families, as our nation owes them a debt that can never be repaid. We encourage you to share these sentiments on social media and hope that those families will take comfort in knowing that although we cannot be together in person, their loved ones are not forgotten.”
In honor of all those who paid the ultimate sacrifice in defense of our country, we present this week the famous poem “In Flanders Fields,” a World War I tribute written by John McCrae.
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
Here’s a look at some scenes from Memorial Day parades of the recent past. With any luck, we’ll have some new photos of Memorial Day parades next year. In the meantime, stay safe!
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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.