Crowds of people lined the streets to experience one of Oyster Bay’s most popular events, the Memorial Day Parade, which included the clanging of bells and the occasional blast of sirens from mammoth fire trucks, patriotic melodies performed by a variety of marching bands, veterans who saluted, antique cars, and even Uncle Sam.
“I’m sure everyone has a feeling about Memorial Day, a feeling of patriotism for the freedom we have,” said Ron Paradiso, who wore a Navy hat. He was stationed in Europe, he said, before the Vietnam War. Sitting on folding chairs, Paradiso and his wife, Rose, who traveled from Greenvale, waited for the parade to begin. “A cop came over to me and said, ‘Thanks for your service,’ and I cried,” he said. “The hat that I’m wearing has a lot of meaning to me.”
Tony Townsend, 71, can trace his lineage back to Robert Townsend, a member of the Culper Spy Ring who played a major role in helping America win the Revolutionary War.
Tony, who grew up in the Pine Hollow section of Oyster Bay, served in Vietnam in 1968 and 1969 in the Army Security Agency’s communication center.
“I remember as far back as when I was 4 years old coming to this parade,” he said. “I remember that it was more crowded back then — the high school had majorettes and there were long lines of firemen. Oh my gosh, the patriotism was unbelievable!”
Townsend said it is always important to remember the men and women who died for our country. “They’re heroes,” he said. “I went to Oyster Bay High School with three veterans who died in Vietnam. I have to honor them today, and I’m also honoring those who serve today.”
Members of the Quentin Roosevelt Post 4 Oyster Bay American Legion marched with pride, followed by U.S. Coast Guard members. Boy Scouts, Cub Scouts, Girl Scouts and Brownies marched, too, carrying banners they had made sporting their troop numbers. The young Little League players held the hands of their teammates, followed by some of the mothers, pushing future baseball players in strollers.
Geoff Machover watched from the sidelines, dressed for the occasion in a hat he bought at the White House Easter Egg Roll. It had a blue top sprinkled with a cluster of white stars and a stiped red and white brim. “I’m patriotic as can be,” he said. “I think it’s super important for people to be unified to remember those who served.”
The hamlet is the most patriotic place on Long Island, Machover said, because of Theodore Roosevelt, who lived during the summers at Sagamore Hill, even while president. “The towns keep the area clean and are always ready for the events,” Machover said. “it reminds me a lot of Mayberry — there’s the same kind of feel here.”
After the parade, people headed to Raynham Hall, the former home of George Washington’s Culper spy, Robert Townsend, where there were free house tours of the first floor.
Outside, refreshments were offered, including red, white and blue ices. As children played old-fashioned games, adults enjoyed period music as they sipped from glasses of lemonade. At the entryway to the house, large American flags served as a reminder of the importance of remembering our veterans, especially those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country.