By Katie Hoos
After decades of dormancy, two Rye organizations are planning to resurrect a former city tradition, the Memorial Day parade.
The American Legion Post 128 and the Ladies Auxiliary of Rye are awaiting approval by the Rye City Council to host a parade on May 26, 2014.
Robin Phelps Latimer, president of the Ladies Auxiliary, is heading a parade planning committee and hopes to gather support within the community and encourage local organizations to participate in the event.
Mayor Douglas French, a Republican who is leaving office at the end of the year, said he has seen increased participation in the city’s Memorial Day observation and welcomes the idea of a parade.
“I was pleased to get a call from the American Legion and Ladies Auxiliary with their interest in bringing it back in a joint community effort,” he said. “We have many parades in Rye and I could not think of a better one than one for our veterans.”
If the committee is able to pull it all together, the parade will begin at the Rye train station, head down Purchase Street and end at the Village Green in front of City Hall, where the city’s annual Memorial Day observance is currently held.
Mayor-elect Joe Sack, a Republican, is optimistic the parade will not only generate excitement in the city, but will also encourage attendance at the existing Village Green ceremony.
“It sounds fantastic and I support it whole-heartedly. It’s a great way to honor those who have served,” he said.
American Legion Post 128 Commander Tom Saunders said the parade planning committee still has a lot of work to do with the city to obtain the proper permissions. Right now they are looking to see who in the community is interested in participating in the parade.
He also said the committee has not yet presented a formal budget to the City Council and is looking into if the city could incur some of the costs for street closures and extra police resources.
Memorial Day, originally kn-own as Decoration Day for the flowers that were placed on the graves of the deceased, drummed up national recognition by the end of the 19th century and was declared an official holiday by Congress in 1971. Since then, cities and towns throughout the country memorialize all those who have served and died in American wars.
The Rye Memorial Day parade was once a source of great pride to the city, drawing elected officials, seniors, veterans and local groups to honor the fallen.
Rye resident John Carolin, a member of the Legion Post 128, former U.S. Army captain and World War II veteran, said the city used to host “sensational parades in the past,” with organizations like the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars involved in the festivities.
The Rye High School marching band played an important role in garnering support for the parade as well. Carolin, who is trying to round up antique cars for the 2014 event, said he once rode through a Rye Memorial Day parade in a 1930 Model A Ford.
Former Democratic Mayor John Carey recalled the good weather that usually blessed the parade and how he preffered to walk the short route rather than riding in an open car like other elected officials.
“I used to enjoy [the parades] very much,” he said.
The parade eventually lost momemtum in the 1980s when Rye High School’s marching band was disbanded and attendance fizzled due to the increasing number of residents going away for the holiday weekend. With dwindling participation, the parade eventually came to an end.
Carolin, 98, fully supports ressurecting the parade.
“The Legion Post strives to keep the spirit of patriotism alive in Rye and we find a parade is one of the best ways to do it,” Carolin said. “Memorial Day and Veterans Day both are important to the vets.”
Past parades marked a tradition of honoring local veterans and those in charge of organizing the proposed 2014 event hope to carry forth the same sentiment.
“Rye in the 1950s was very much of a hometown atmosphere and a lot of people turned out,” Carolin said.
He expects the same turnout based on the attendance of this year’s Veteran’s Day ceremonies.
The Rye parade, if and when it is resurrected, has no official start time yet, but will likely begin around 9:30 a.m. and finish at 10:15 a.m., with the traditional Village Green observance starting at 10:30 a.m.