Amherst, South Hadley parades observe Memorial Day
Police walk Monday in the Amherst Memorial Day parade down Pleasant St.
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Amherst Boy Scout Troop 504 Scout Master Russell Kosuda, left, talks with Amherst Boy Scout Troop 500 Scout Master Peter Crowley Monday prior to the start of the Memorial Day parade in Amherst. Kosuda and Crowley walked with their dogs Youkilis and Fletcher in the parade.
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The Memorial Day parade in Amherst kicked off Sunday with a drum roll from the Hopkins Academy marching band as the procession of musicians, Scout troops, veterans and law enforcement began their march from the Town Common.
As the parade made its way up North Pleasant street, the marching band playing “The Stars and Stripes Forever” and the drummers keeping the beat of the march, the show of pride in the annual event was evident as Valley residents rushed to keep up, constantly snapping photos to commemorate the show. Many spectators had family members and friends participating in the march. Others came in honor of loved ones serving in the military.
To the delight of some of the younger paradegoers, the Girl Scouts tossed candy as they marched.
Some residents waved flags to show their support. Joanne Goding, of Hadley, said she brings flags to the parade every year to express her gratitude for the freedoms in this country.
“I have friends from Iran who tell me how much better this country is,” Goding said. “It’s a good reminder not to take it for granted here.”
Goding’s daughter, Jennie Moss, marched in the parade with the Hopkins Academy marching band.
Meg Robertson of Amherst said she is glad the town has a parade for Memorial Day, and that she felt it was especially appropriate for her to watch because her brother, Francis V. McLean, is currently serving in the Navy, mentoring hospital administrators in Kabul.
Having come prepared to keep up with the fast-moving parade, Roberston’s young son, Rutesh Jaswal, wore roller skates.
The commemoration was also particularly meaningful for Bonnie MacCracken of Amherst, whose son Gregory Bascomb, a 1996 graduate of Amherst Regional High School, is serving in the Army.
“I look forward to when the town comes together to see who our veterans are and pay respect to them,” MacCracken said of the event.
The parade ended with a ceremony at Veterans War Memorial Pool. In the moments before the speakers began, children gathered on the swing sets and seesaw while they enjoyed the candy they collected from the Girl Scouts along the route.
The keynote speaker, Dr. Ernie Price, reminded gatherers that while the holiday has come to be associated with sales and barbecues, they must remember the history behind the celebrations.
“The responsibility falls on all of us,” Price said. “We must cherish those values that (people) have given their lives to protect.”
Later that morning, a long line of marchers, sequined floats, and red Corvettes gathered in the South Hadley High School parking lot for the South Hadley Memorial Day parade.
The procession consisted of musicians, sports teams, Scout troops, firefighters, police officers and an array of local organizations.
A Girl Scout troop carried a white bed sheet with a flag painted on it, the red stripes made up of red handprints. Athletes from the middle school girls lacrosse team, dressed in their orange and black uniforms, passed a lacrosse ball back and forth using lacrosse sticks as they marched.
Marchers from the Neighbors Helping Neighbors, the South Hadley food pantry, carried fishing rods with signs that read, “We’re fishing for food.” They marched behind a cart with an umbrella from which cans, cereal boxes, and egg cartons hung from strings.
Glittering at the front of the procession was a large blue sequined float ridden by Blue Star Mothers Karen O’Connor and Mary Ann Donze, both of South Hadley. O’Connor’s son, Travis Bailey, serves in the U.S. Marine Corps. Donze’s son, Dylan Donze, is also in the Marines.
For many South Hadley residents, watching the march each year is a tradition, which, luckily for the good weather, they were able to carry out to its fullest. Spectators lined the whole route, some residents watching from chairs on their front lawns.
Norma McCain, whose house is along the parade route, is a retired fifth-grade teacher from Michael E. Smith Middle School. She said she used to watch for her students in the parade each year, but continues to watch the marchers from her front lawn with her husband Bob McCain. Bob watched while sitting in his tractor, drawing comments from some marchers saying that he should join the parade.
Also watching from his front yard was Wayne Selkirk, who was gathered with family and friends. When his brother, South Hadley firefighter William Selkirk, walked by with members of the fire department, everyone sitting on his driveway cheered and shouted to them.
The procession ended with a gathering in front of Town Hall, where the national anthem was sung by Kyle Whelihan, a 2012 graduate of South Hadley High School.
The keynote speech was given by Capt. David Gardner of the U.S. Coast Guard. Gardner, of South Hadley, is the dean of pre-medical programs at Mount Holyoke College. Gardner talked about resilience and its significance to remembering the true meaning of Memorial Day through all of the celebrations.
“Today is a day for us to be resilient,” Gardner said. “It may be a day to put the boat in the water or have a barbecue — because those were the privileges given to us by those who knew both hope and sacrifice.”