Memorial Day parades to honor veterans, kick off the summer

ADDISON COUNTY — Bands play as they march past, men wearing fezzes whiz by in peppy little cars and parents let their children scramble into the street for candy tossed to them by strangers — it must be time for Memorial Day parades.
Six Addison County towns will host Memorial Day parades this weekend, and one town — Monkton — will wrap it all up with a solemn observance on Monday evening.
Orwell kicks off local parades
As is traditional, the first local parade of the weekend will take place in the bucolic village of Orwell. The town of Orwell will host its 41st Memorial Day Parade and Celebration starting at 1:30 p.m. on Sunday, May 25, on the village green.
The parade will follow its traditional route, beginning on North Orwell Road and running east to Main Street before heading onto Church Street, circling Roberts Avenue, and then heading back west on Main Street to the green.
There is no theme this year, but organizers nevertheless expect to have some enthusiastic participants. Those who attend can expect to see the Catamount Pipe Band and the Seth Warner Mount Independence Fife and Drum Corps, plus representatives from three American Legion posts, as well as representatives of civic groups.
The grand marshal for this celebration will be Richard Reed, who is Veteran Service Director — the top official at the Vermont Office of Veterans Affairs. His primary responsibility is to ensure that Vermont’s veterans receive the state and federal benefits they earned.
While a member of the U.S. Coast Guard from 1971 to 1975, he saw a tour of duty in Thailand. He has worked with veterans for more than 20 years, initially as a local veterans employment representative, then for 12 years as a veteran service officer.
Organizers of the Orwell parade said Reed was very helpful in the town’s 250th anniversary celebrations last summer.
Middlebury hosts traditional celebration
Middlebury’s Memorial Day festivities will revolve around its annual parade, which will begin forming at 8 a.m. in the parking area of Middlebury College’s Mahaney Center for the Arts off South Main Street.
The parade will step off at 9 a.m. sharp. The parade will feature several Middlebury-area school bands, numerous firetrucks, and, of course, a color guard.
Marchers will follow their traditional route north on Main Street, around the green onto Pleasant Street in front of the Congregational Church of Middlebury and in front of the Middlebury Inn. The parade concludes at the Soldiers’ Monument on Merchants Row, where there will be a speech honoring fallen servicemen and women and those still serving.
Want to join the fun? To participate in the parade, which is coordinated by Post 27 of the American Legion, call Post 27 at 388-9311 and let them know what type of entry you have (walkers, float, etc.), number of participants and what your entry represents. Then meet in the Middlebury College parking lot off of Field House Road at 8 a.m. on parade day.
Brandon and Hancock have cozy ceremonies
Parades in Brandon and Hancock are up next; both are set to begin at 10 a.m.
Brandon’s parade lineup will begin at 9:30 a.m. at the Brandon Post Office. The parade sets in motion at 10 a.m. and heads up Conant Square and Center Street to the bandstand in Central Park.
There, a remembrance ceremony at the bandstand is planned, to be followed by the flower girl ceremony at the Civil War Monument across the street. Always a highlight, girls from Neshobe Elementary dressed in white walk to the monumnet and lay flowers in a poignant ceremony.
Anyone who wishes to take part in the Brandon Memorial Day parade is asked to contact Jean Lamarre at 247-8179.
In Hancock, there will be a dedication ceremony for the Hancock Town Green, 9-9:45 a.m., near the first memorial bench on the green. There will be free sunflowers for residents to plant to beautify the town. Seeds were donated by residents Ross Parker and Denise Chapin. Jack Ross planted the sunflowers so the seedlings will be ready to hand out.
A veteran’s group will hold a rememberance ceremony at the small cemetary on Route 125 at around 9:30 a.m. After that, Hancock’s parade begins at the firehouse near the veterans memorial and proceeds to the town library on Route 125. From there, it heads east to Route 100 and turns south to the town cemetery and back to the veterans memorial on the town green.
Respectful observance planned in Bristol
Bristol American Legion will host its traditional “small town” Memorial Day parade and related festivities. The charming event begins with parade marchers stepping off from the intersection of West Street and the entrance to Mount Abraham Union High School at 1 p.m. They will proceed eastward on West Street to the village green, where Legion Post 19 will host its traditional Memorial Day Ceremony.
There the Legion will feature a speech by a senior officer from the Vermont National Guard (details were still being worked out early this week). Following the ceremony, there will be an open house at the Legion.
“The Bristol parade is not in competition against the Vergennes parade, but just a small parade and ceremony for our community,” said Bristol American Legion Post Commander Ron LaRose. “We hold it at 1 p.m. so Bristol members can arrive back in town from Vergennes to witness and participate in our Memorial Day ceremony.”
Vergennes parade is big
Vergennes’ Memorial Day parade is one of the largest and best attended in Vermont.
With the theme of “Veterans Never To Be Forgotten,” the Vergennes Memorial Day Parade and Ceremony is in its final preparatory stages. The parade will step off from Vergennes Union High School at 11 a.m., proceed up Monkton Road and turn onto Main Street heading toward Vergennes City Park and then along several side streets before concluding back at the park.
A broad array of floats, marching bands, color guards, groups and vehicles will cover the two-mile route in front of the thousands of spectators who annually swell the Little City’s population for the event. Their sponsors include local schools, Scouts, civic organizations, veterans groups, media outlets, political organizations and individuals.
Anyone who plans on being in the Memorial Day parade but has not contacted the American Legion yet should do so via email, [email protected] or by calling 802-877-3216. Floats that are going to be in the parade need to be in line at the high school by 10:20 a.m. on the parade day in order to be part of the judging process.
Parade grand marshals will be a group of local World War II veterans representing all members of “The Greatest Generation.”
Following the parade, American Legion Post 14 members will host a solemn ceremony at the bandstand in the park. The keynote speaker for the Memorial Day Services will be Addison resident and decorated veteran Michael Wojciechowski. A Purple Heart recipient and highly decorated soldier, Wojciechowski served in the Army National Guard from 1986-2012 and did tours in both Iraq and Afghanistan. He is a member of American Legion Post No. 14. 
Also during the ceremony, the VUHS Band under the direction of Susan O’Daniel will play the National Anthem prior to an invocation by a local pastor. Vergennes Mayor Bill Benton will deliver greetings from the host city and recognize state and local dignitaries and office holders. There will be several special awards from Montpelier.
A representative of the armed forces will lay a wreath at the monument to Commodore Thomas Macdonough, a hero of the Battle of Plattsburg on Lake Champlain during the War of 1812.
Students will perform historic readings: Emily Martin will recite “In Flanders Field.” Following that, Julie Grace will recite Lincoln’s “Gettysburg Address.” Both are students at VUHS. American Legion Vermont Oratorical Champion Hanna Hatch of Vergennes will also speak. She was selected to represent Vermont at the American Legions’ 77th National Oratorical Contest. The daughter of Jason and Jennifer Hatch, she is a junior at VUHS.
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 will sound taps.
Following the parade, all are cordially invited to the annual chicken barbecue under the tent at the Legion Post, 100 Armory Lane. Tickets are $8 per person.
Monkton caps memorial events
The Monkton Museum and Historical Society will hold a Memorial Day observance on Monday at 7 p.m. at the East Monkton Church. The observance will include readings from a number of Civil War letters written by a Monkton soldier. Some letters speak of injury and the loss of fellow soldiers.
Organizers noted that this is a solemn observance honoring all deceased Monkton soldiers.
This event is free to the public.

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