NIAGARA FALLS — After sidestepping cancellation a month and a half ago, a reinvigorated Community Memorial Day Parade will step off at 10 a.m. Saturday at the City Market on Pine Avenue at 19th Street.
Community members led by Niagara Falls Councilman Kenneth Tompkins raised $7,000 and rallied 78 units to participate in the parade, dubbed by Tompkins as “the biggest the city has seen in years.”
Reviving the annual tradition has been a lot of work, but community support has been unbelievable, he added.
The parade is not sponsored by the city, said Tompkins, who came to the rescue when he was approached in late March by residents upset that the Veteran’s Monument group had canceled the parade because of lack of funding.
The councilman said he was inspired by his father-in-law, the late Gordon Ortt, who served during World War II.
Tompkins said talks are underway with the Kiwanis Club of Niagara Falls to take over planning for next year’s parade. However, he said he would step forward and run the parade again if need be, adding that enough funding was raised this year to put some in reserve for the 2017 parade.
Tompkins said he reached out to every community group in Niagara Falls to participate in the parade, and asked 30 people for donations, with all 30 writing a check. Parade sponsors are a mix of small and large businesses, politicians, private citizens and community groups.
The original starting time of 11 a.m. was moved ahead an hour to accommodate all participants in the parade along Pine, which will conclude with a ceremony at noon at Niagara Falls Veterans Memorial Park in Hyde Park.
On Parade Day, traffic will be one-way on Robbins Drive. Special seating will be provided for Blue Star families who have lost a family member in the war, as well as veterans, service members and the elderly.
Volunteers will walk along the parade route. collecting non-perishables for the troops, including socks, underwear, disposable razors, shaving cream, hand sanitizer, deodorant. lip balm, tampons, body wash, shampoo, toothpaste, lotion, cards and new or gently used books and DVDs. Collection bins also will be located at Pine Pharmacy in the City Market.
Tops Market is providing 450 water bottles for the event and Basil Ford will provide a truck to transport a band, Carmine’s Restaurant on Pine Avenue is providing free spaghetti and beer for veterans from noon to 4 p.m. and McDonalds in the City Market will provide a free breakfast for veterans from 7 a.m. to noon.
Bands in the line of march include the Ghost Riders Drum and Bugle Corps, Lew Custode Dixieland Band, Mackenzie Highlanders, Buffalo Bagpipe Club, Iroquois Indian Marching Band, Buffalo Gordon Highlanders and the Niagara Falls High School Marching Band.
The grand marshals are: Harvey Albond, 86, aerial photographers mate third class, Navy, former city manager and longtime member and two-time president of Rotary International; William Kressman, 97, first lieutenant, Army; John Gawel, 97, private first class, Marine Corps, one of four brothers who served during World War II, including his brother, Chester Gawel, 93, fireman first class, Navy, who also is a grand marshal.
For more information on the parade, visit www.NFnyvetsparade.org or follow Community Memorial Parade on Facebook.