After word spread about its possible cancellation, residents spoke out about their feelings regarding the township’s annual Memorial Day Parade. Of the several Verona and Cedar Grove residents who spoke with the Times this week, a majority were not happy about the suggestion to end the traditional march down Pompton Avenue.
At last week’s council meeting, Cedar Grove Councilman Joseph Chiusolo suggested the cancellation of the Memorial Day parade due mainly to the lack of military involvement.
Chiusolo based his opinion on past Memorial Day celebrations, which consisted of participation from the local VFW post, a memorial service held for fallen soldiers, speeches made by Cedar Grove residents and a large military presence in the parade.
“We don’t have that presence anymore,” Chiusolo said.
But local residents failed to see Chiusolo’s logic.
“It’s unfair to cancel the [parade] because there isn’t enough military participating,” said Lenny Vega, a veteran and Cedar Grove resident.
“That’s like cancelling Halloween because there aren’t enough kids trick-or-treating.”
Chiusolo and Councilman John Zunic agreed that the parade didn’t seem necessary after evaluating that about $5,000 is spent annually on an event that no longer serves its purpose.
The “true meaning of Memorial Day” is diminishing year by year, according to Chiusolo, who said Memorial Day is being used as a day-off for shopping and barbeques rather than for honoring those who served and died for the country.
Still, the community is leaning more toward Councilman Peter Tanella’s approach to simply revamp the parade to both satisfy the community and honor Memorial Day.
“Cancelling the parade is not an option,” Tanella said last week, adding that he remembers being excited about the march as a child.
Like Tanella, Verona resident Jane Pierce and Cedar Grove resident Jane Ballinger care about the kids’ experience more than anything.
“Kids love the parade. I wouldn’t discontinue it,” Pierce said. “That would be kind of sad and pathetic. I take my kids to the Verona parade and we always have a great time.”
Ballinger had similar comments, but also considered Chiusolo’s point. “The young kids, baseball teams, and the little ones look forward to the parade. And although it’s crowded, we have the Town Hall space that we can use to observe and honor the day.
“We should revamp the parade because it represents our pride as a town,” Ballinger said.
During last week’s council meeting, Chiusolo maintained that “our VFW has become almost non-existent – there is no military station for them or current members of the armed forces.”
However, newly seated VFW Commander Fred Urban says otherwise.
Taking office at the VFW convention in Wildwood this past Saturday, June 21, Urban is excited about his new position and is looking to “make a change in direction for the Post,” he told the Times this week.
Now meeting in the homes of VFW members since the collapse of the post’s Pompton Avenue location this past winter, Urban is planning new forms of outreach to “bring in more members [specifically] younger veterans coming back from several wars since Afghanistan.”
While Urban wants to keep the parade, he feels it should be changed in order to truly “honor those who died in battle,” he said.
“Its about time Americans start taking care of Americans. If the parade is a symbol that we care about, we should have it,” said Angela Maguire, a Cedar Grove resident and patriot.
A crowd watches as the Cedar Grove Memorial Day Parade goes down Pompton Avenue in 2012.