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Northampton halts Veterans Day parade this year

  • Jack Miller leads the Florence VFW Post 8006 color guard in the 2016 Veterans Day parade in Northampton. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO



Staff Writer
Thursday, November 08, 2018

NORTHAMPTON — This Veterans Day, there will be no parade in Northampton.

It was a longstanding tradition, but organizers said because of declining participation of both marchers and observers, along with aging veterans, the parade is on hold — at least for this year.

“The whole thing comes down to participation,” said Veterans Council of Northampton president Brad LeVay. “There’s just no one coming out to see us.”

He said the council decided it would be better to host a ceremony on Sunday and breakfast on Saturday, but no parade.

“I hate to say this,” he said, “but it’s hard to get people to participate in parades. We’re losing veterans by the hundreds every year and it’s just hard.”

Steven Connor, director of Central Hampshire Veterans’ Services said he’s been helping organize the parade for 14 years, and estimated that participation of marchers and observers has decreased by about half in recent years. “It was a real struggle to get participants,” he said.

“It was pretty unanimous,” Veterans Council of Northampton secretary Nicholas Grimaldi said of the decision. “You gotta remember, most of these people are up there in age.”

He pointed to the large Memorial Day parade the council planned earlier this year. He said they spent almost a year planning that. “It took a lot of effort,” he said.

LeVay said said another reason for not holding a parade this year is that as veterans get older, it’s more difficult for them to walk in a parade.

As for the younger veterans, they’re not showing up, organizers said. “All the younger veterans, you just can’t get them,” LeVay said.

For example, the youngest member of the Veterans Council of Northampton is in his late 50s and the oldest in his late 80s, Grimaldi said.

But it’s not just an issue in Northampton, organizers said.

“The younger veterans are not joining veterans organizations like they used to,” Connor said, adding that they are open to more volunteers.

Robert Wheeler, a veteran, agreed.

“As we get older and die the younger veterans don’t seem to take an interest or be involved like their parents,” he said Wednesday at a free lunch put on by the Building Bridges Veterans Initiative at the World War II Club on Conz Street.

There will be some events this weekend planned by the Veterans Council of Northampton and Central Hampshire Veterans’ Services. On Sunday a ceremony is scheduled for 11 a.m. in Pulaski Park, featuring a speech from Jennifer Shea, a volunteer at Honor Flight, a group that gives veterans free trips to D.C. to tour war memorials. And on Saturday, there will be a breakfast to commemorate World War I, as this year is the centennial anniversary of the end of World War I.

Still, Connor said: “I’m kind of sad we’re not having it.” He remembers his father marching in the parade when he was a kid decades ago.

The Northampton Veterans Day parade isn’t necessarily gone for good though and organizers said they will reevaluate the situation next year.

The council is considering a few options for the future, LeVay said, such as joining forces with other nearby towns to host a parade together.

“We hate to give up on this stuff,” LeVay said. “It’s history. And it’s important to me. I’m a disabled veteran. I’m a purple heart veteran. I’ve been in the veterans council for years and I can see it downhill. It’s hard.”

Greta Jochem can be reached at gjochem@gazettenet.comGazette reporter Andy Castillo contributed to this story.