Veterans Day parade returning to Northampton

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

Staff Writer
Published: 10/30/2019 2:51:42 PM

NORTHAMPTON — The Veterans Day parade is back.

Members of the Veterans Council of Northampton said the long-standing tradition was canceled last fall for a combination of reasons: the declining participation of both marchers and observers, aging veterans and a large effort put into organizing the 150th Florence Memorial Day Parade.

But when the parade was not held last year, the council heard complaints and decided “immediately” after Veterans Day to resume the tradition, said Eugene Tacy, president of the council. Some people showed up last year for the parade, “as they do every year,” Tacy said. “They showed up, and it didn’t happen.”

The strongest proponent for holding a parade this year was the council’s previous president, Brad LeVay, who died in September. “Brad LeVay was steadfast in wanting a parade in Northampton,” said Tom Pease, the vice president of the council.

“We give it our best shot, and if it doesn’t work it doesn’t work,” said Gerry Clark, a past council president and current member.

The parade will be held Nov. 11 at 11 a.m. starting at Lampron Park and ending at Pulaski Park. On Nov. 9 at 9 a.m., there will be a free breakfast in Florence for veterans at the Elks Lodge 997, where Eric Segundo, the previous state commander of the VFW of Massachusetts, is scheduled to speak.

The council has contacted all the VFWs in the Valley notifying them of the event and asking for support. “We went one step beyond this year,” Pease said. To advertise, the group has put up more posters than last year. “Probably three times as many,” he said.

They are also working to organize a jet flyover.

Parade marchers will include the Northampton High School band, organizers said. “The Northampton Public Schools has been pretty dang good to us,” Tacy said.

But organizers say they are still looking for organizations and people — who don’t necessarily need to be veterans — to take part in the event.

“We need people,” said Carl Growhoski, council treasurer. “We’re all in our late 70s and 80s.”

Clark said World War II veterans are “almost nonexistent,” and Korean War veterans typically need to be driven in the parade. “Vietnam veterans are the ones driving the Korean War veterans,” he said.

The call for support goes beyond this year’s parade. “We desperately need help,” Tacy said, reiterating the point that one doesn’t need to be a veteran to support the council and the veterans it serves.

“It’s as simple as putting a poster in the window of their business,” Pease said.

A drop in membership numbers has been an issue for the group. “The problem we’re having now — with all the service clubs — is membership,” said Pease. “We’re always trying to reach out to the younger guys.”

Pease wants younger veterans to know that “we are active in the community,” he said. “We’re not just going to sit by the bar.”

For example, the council plans to gauge interest on a trip for Vietnam veterans to Washington, D.C. For a similar trip for veterans in the past, the council raised over $26,000.

Greta Jochem can be reached at gjochem@gazettenet.com.




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