MERIDEN — Organizers of the city’s annual Memorial Day parade are making an effort to attract more participation and attendance this year in light of what one organizer called “embarrassing” turnouts in recent years.
“We want to see if we can do a full court press to get the word out,” said City Councilor Bob Williams, commander of American Legion Post 45, which organizes the event.
Williams said organizers are looking to attract more parade participants and crowds.
“Anyone can participate,” Williams said, adding anyone interested should contact him at 203-641-4622.
At a recent City Council meeting, Williams said attendance at past parades was “an embarrassment.” Similar events in other communities also see low turnout, said Williams and Mayor Kevin Scarpati.
“I think attendance can always be higher,” Scarpati said, “especially when we’re dealing with our veterans. We want to see everyone out there paying homage and honor, and what better way of doing that than by coming out and applauding them and more importantly listening to their stories and what they’ve been through.”
Williams believes the meaning of Memorial Day has been lost, particularly with younger generations.
Scarpati said it’s possible low attendance is due to the public not being aware that the parade route was modified a couple of years back so that it ends at the Meriden Green, where city officials and local veterans make remarks in a ceremony.
This year’s parade will begin at 10 a.m. on Memorial Day and will start on Curtis Street, continue onto East Main and then conclude on the Green.
Williams said this year’s keynote speaker will be Ray Martia, an Army veteran who earned a Purple Heart while serving in Vietnam. This parade will honor Tom Caliendo, the former longtime owner of Tom’s Place in South Meriden, Williams said. Caliendo, an Army veteran, died earlier this year.
Memorial Day is held on the last Monday of May in honor of those who died while serving. Veterans still living are honored on Veterans Day every November and active duty soldiers are celebrated on Armed Forces Day, held the third Saturday of May.