ADDISON COUNTY — From a respectful color guard marching in Hancock to a two-mile-long extravaganza in Vergennes, local parades will run the gamut this Memorial Day weekend.
And, as befits a holiday established to recognize Americans’ forbearers who gave their lives in service to the country, there will also be plenty of men and women in uniform and expressions of thanks for their service.
While not a parade, Memorial Day observances will kick off on Saturday in Hancock with the dedication of a new town honor roll at 11 a.m. at Taylor Meadow Road. The ceremony at the green marble monument that lists Hancock’s service members, will be followed by open house for lunch provided by the Hancock Volunteer Fire Department.
Orwell will ring in the holiday with its traditional Sunday afternoon parade, which kicks off at 1:30 p.m. The 45-minute parade usually features plenty of music and plenty of veterans displaying the red, white and blue.
Monday, of course, is the big day for parades. Middlebury’s spectacle gets under way at 9 a.m. at the Middlebury College Center for the Arts and follows the traditional route down Main Street and around the village green to the soldiers’ monument at the top of Merchants Row. Gov. James Douglas has committed to showing up at his hometown parade, as has Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie, according to organizers at American Legion Post 27. It being an election year, plenty of other public servants are expected to march, as well.
At the monument, Middlebury Police Chief Tom Hanley will deliver a speech recalling our fallen soldiers, sailors and airmen and women. Students from the Addison Central school district will recite Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address and the classic World War I poem “In Flanders Field.”
Participants in Brandon’s Memorial Day parade will gather at the town’s post office off Conant Square before the parade kicks off at 10 a.m. Marchers will proceed up Route 7 to the Brandon Town green and Civil War monument for a memorial ceremony honoring the contributions of those in the military. First-grade girls will place flowers at the monument.
At the same hour look for another observance in Hancock, the annual parade. It will begin at the town clerk’s office and process to the town cemetery, with music provided by students from Rochester High School.
American Legion Post 19’s annual Bristol Memorial Day Parade will form on Airport Drive at noon and depart for the Bristol town green at 1 p.m. At the conclusion of the parade, a ceremony will be held on the green honoring the nation’s and the town’s war dead.
After that, the public is invited to an open house at Post 19 for hot dogs, hamburgers and beverages.
The granddaddy of all parades is thrown by Legion Post 14 in Vergennes.
All floats participating in the Vergennes Memorial Day parade are asked to be at Vergennes Union High School, the starting point for the parade, by 10 a.m. on Monday. This is to give judges sufficient time to view all the floats prior to the start of the parade and determine best floats in various categories.
For spectators, the day begins when the parade, with the theme of “NEVER Forgotten,” steps off from VUHS at 11 a.m. Floats, marching bands, color guards, veterans’ groups, Scouts, firetrucks, antique cars, and many more participants will cover the two-mile route as they parade down Main Street, make a loop through side streets and conclude at Vergennes City Park. Both Gov. Douglas and Sen. Bernie Sanders are expected to participate.
Ann Sullivan will announce the participating groups and personalities on the public address system as they pass the reviewing stand on Main Street.
Following the parade, master of ceremonies and Post 14 Commander Larney McGrath will kick off the ceremonies from the bandstand in the park. After the National Anthem and an invocation by the Rev. Yvon Royer, pastor of St. Peter’s Catholic church, Vergennes Mayor Michael Daniels will present a key to the city to parade grand marshal, Petty Officer First Class Cassandra Foote, USN. Foote has been named Chief of Naval Operations Shore Sailor of the Year. Navy vets will lay a wreath at the monument to Commodore Thomas McDonough, a hero of the Battle of Plattsburg on Lake Champlain during the War of 1812.
Three VUHS students will then take center stage. Sophomore Brendan Duke will honor an American Revolutionary War soldier buried in the old Vergennes cemetery, and juniors Hanna Sturtevant and Nathan North will then recite “In Flanders Field” and the Gettysburg Address, respectively.
U.S. Army Col. Jeffrey Farnsworth, a Vergennes native, will deliver the Memorial Day address after being introduced by retired Navy captain and Legion member John Mitchell. Following this, a unit of the Vermont National Guard will conduct a 21-gun salute in honor of those who gave their lives during our nation’s wars and conflicts. Buglers Melvin and Aaron Hawley will then sound taps. The ceremonies will conclude with benediction offered by Rev. Michael Doran, pastor of the Vergennes Methodist Church.
As is customary, the Legion will then host a chicken barbeque.