Honoring the fallen: Memorial Day Parade tradition marches on in Florence

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  • Kourtenay Green, left, and her sister Katelyn Green wave from their Frontier Girls and Quest Boys Florence Troop 210 float during the 152nd Florence Memorial Day Parade, Monday. STAFF PHOTO / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Brothers Cody and Levi Pilachowski, 5 and 4, of Northampton enjoy the 152nd Florence Memorial Day Parade from their curbside seats as a contingent from Soldier On marches up Main Street on Monday, May 27, 2019. —STAFF PHOTO / KEVIN GUTTING

  • A combined color guard leads the 152nd Florence Memorial Day Parade on a second pass up Main Street on Monday, May 27, 2019. —STAFF PHOTO / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Grady Ryan, 2, of Northampton exchanges a high five with the Northampton Lions Club mascot during the 152nd Florence Memorial Day Parade on Monday, May 27, 2019. —STAFF PHOTO / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Brothers Levi and Cody Pilachowski, 2 and 5, of Northampton enjoy the 152nd Florence Memorial Day Parade from their curbside seats on Main Street on Monday, May 27, 2019. —STAFF PHOTO / KEVIN GUTTING

  • The Northampton Lodge of Elks No. 997 float, depicting a mobile version of the the Field of Honor currently installed outside the Florence lodge, takes part in the 152nd Florence Memorial Day Parade on Monday, May 27, 2019. —STAFF PHOTO / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Marine Corps veteran Bradley Levay of Leeds waves from the grand marshall's carriage in the 152nd Florence Memorial Day Parade on Monday, May 27, 2019. —STAFF PHOTO / KEVIN GUTTING

  • A spectactor watches from Main Street as heavy equipment from Northampton Fire Rescue and the Department of Public Works bring up the rear of the 152nd Florence Memorial Day Parade on Monday, May 27, 2019. —STAFF PHOTO / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Children watch - and wait for candy to be thrown - as the Hampshire County Sheriff Department's color guard passes by during the 152nd Florence Memorial Day Parade on Monday, May 27, 2019. From left are Rowan and Ezra Durrant-West, 9, Rowan Steed, 8, Ellie Durrant-West, 9, Silas Wamsley, 7, and Peter and Ben Lodzieski, 7 and 5, all of Northampton. —STAFF PHOTO / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Joe Sperry, left, Christopher Carter and Martin Miner of the 10th Massachusetts Volunteers march in the 152nd Florence Memorial Day Parade on Monday, May 27, 2019. —STAFF PHOTO / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Caroline King, left, 5, and her sisters, 4-year-old twins Allison, center, and Elizabeth, watch the 152nd Florence Memorial Day Parade on Monday. STAFF PHOTO / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Children watch — and wait for candy to be thrown — as the Hampshire County Sheriff's Department color guard passes by during the 152nd Florence Memorial Day Parade on Monday. From left are Ellie Durrant-West, 9, Silas Wamsley, 7, and Peter and Ben Lodzieski, 7 and 5, all of Northampton. STAFF PHOTO / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Lucas Tardy rides in the Florence VFW Post 8006 Auxiliary Frontier Girls and Quest Boys Troop 210 float during the 152nd Florence Memorial Day Parade on Monday, May 27, 2019. —STAFF PHOTO / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Jack Lodzieski, 2 1/2, of Northampton checks on his two "brothers", stand-ins for his big brothers Ben and Peter, while watching the 152nd Florence Memorial Day Parade on Monday, May 27, 2019. —STAFF PHOTO / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Michael F. Curtin VFW Post 8006 Commander Tom Pease addresses a ceremony in the Park Street cemetery following the 152nd Florence Memorial Day Parade on Monday, May 27, 2019. —STAFF PHOTO / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Several color guards taking part in the 152nd Florence Memorial Day Parade listen to speakers at the concluding ceremony in the Park Street cemetery on Monday, May 27, 2019. —STAFF PHOTO / KEVIN GUTTING

  • A rifle detail combined from different units in the 152nd Florence Memorial Day Parade, including the 10th Massachusetts Volunteers, right, fires a salute prior to the playing of Taps to conclude the ceremony in the Park Street cemetery on Monday, May 27, 2019. —STAFF PHOTO / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Jack Miller from the Michael F. Curtin VFW Post 8006 in Florence sounds Taps during the concluding ceremony of the 152nd Florence Memorial Day Parade in the Park Street cemetery on Monday, May 27, 2019. —STAFF PHOTO / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Northampton High School sophomore Ben Malynoski plays the "echo" Taps to conclude the 152nd Florence Memorial Day Parade ceremony in the Park Street cemetery on Monday, May 27, 2019. —STAFF PHOTO / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Northampton Mayor David Narkewicz, left, and former city councilor Gene Tacy place a wreath in the Park Street Cemetery during a ceremony following the 152nd Florence Memorial Day Parade on Monday, May 27, 2019. —STAFF PHOTO / KEVIN GUTTING

Staff Writer
Published: 5/27/2019 2:56:40 PM

NORTHAMPTON — It was 151 years ago that war veterans first gathered in Park Street Cemetery in Florence to honor their dead in 1868.

And on Monday, that ceremonial occasion continued as the village gathered to celebrate Memorial Day as it always does — with an old-school parade filled with American flags, patriotic songs and remembrances of those who have lost their lives in war.

“The parade marches on year after year,” Northampton Mayor David Narkewicz said shortly before the parade began. “If it is raining sideways, they’ll be marching here.”

Rain was nowhere in sight Monday as the sun beat down on parade goers and temperatures reached the mid-70s. But even the heat didn’t deter some from wearing wool Civil War-era uniforms as they marched.

“The north had wool and the south had cotton,” said Martin Miner, one of those wearing the wool uniforms of the 10th Massachusetts Regiment of Volunteers. He was standing under a shade tree on Trinity Row, waiting for the parade to begin.

As for how to best deal with heat, one of his fellow wool-uniformed marchers had a simple piece of advice.

“Bring your canteen,” said Christopher Carter.

American flags and American-flag pinwheels lined the parade as onlookers clapped, danced along to the sounds of the Northampton High School band and caught candy thrown from some of the parade floats.

“This is a great way to be a part of the community,” said Chris Boucher, who recently moved back to Northampton after living in the Boston area.

Boucher said Florence’s Memorial Day Parade is a great example of small-town community.

“Feels great to be back,” he said.

Boucher was marching in the parade with his children Gideon, 5, and Zoe, 6, as part of the contingent from Cloverdale Cooperative Preschool. The small children walked excitedly down Main Street, carrying a banner bearing their school’s name.

“It’s very exciting and fun,” said Whitney Heuschkel, a teacher at the school. “We’ll definitely share stories about it on Tuesday.”

Among the group was Sonia Ayala, who said she was proud to be marching in the parade for the first time as a U.S. citizen.

“It’s exciting,” said Ayala, who is originally from Peru.

Memorial Day’s beginnings date back to 1868, when General John A. Logan issued a proclamation calling for the celebration of “Decoration Day.” Since then, residents of Florence have gathered in the Park Street Cemetery, where the parade once again ended on Tuesday.

Elected politicians and veterans alike spoke at a ceremony in the cemetery, where some gathered around the stage and others under a nearby tree.

Attendees sang the national anthem, said the pledge of allegiance, bowed their heads for a prayer and listened to some history of Memorial Day as two fighter jets roared over the parade.

“You’ve got to be proud of the outpouring of support you’ve given us,” VFW Post 8006 Commander Tom Pease said during his speech.

Dusty Christensen can be reached at dchristensen@gazettenet.com.

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