ADDISON COUNTY — The last weekend in May is always a big one for anyone who likes to listen to brass bands play, wonder at the precision driving of Shriners in pint-size vehicles, and watch a procession of friends and neighbors march past holding banners and waving. This year should be no exception.
Six Addison County towns will host Memorial Day parades this weekend.
As is traditional, the first local parade of the weekend will take place in the beaucolic village of Orwell. The Town of Orwell will host its 40th Memorial Day Parade and Celebration starting at 1:30 p.m. on Sunday, May 26, 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.
The theme for this year’s parade is “250 Years of Memories,” in honor of the 250th anniversary of the granting of Orwell’s town charter (the actual anniversary is Aug. 18). The grand marshals for this celebration will be Bernard Parent and Bob Hall, who are original founding members of the Orwell Fire Department.
Organizers said this year they will have the Catamount Pipe Band and the Seth Warner Mount Independence Fife and Drum Corps for noteworthy bands. They will also have the crowd favorite Cairo mini cars, and Veterans from many local American Legion posts, as well as representatives of civic groups.
Walker James will act as master of ceremonies at the Memorial Ceremony on the green immediately following the parade.
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 its 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 G. Kenneth Perine, president of the National Bank of Middlebury will deliver a speech after the parade. That speech, honoring fallen servicemen and women and those still serving, will be delivered from the steps of the Town Hall Theater off Merchants Row.
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.) and what your entry represents. That is all there is to it, other than to meet in the Middlebury College parking lot off of South Street on Porter Field Road between 8 and 8:20 a.m. on parade day.
FIRE DEPT. OPEN HOUSE
The Middlebury Fire Department is inviting the public to an open house at Station No. 1 on Seymour Street. The station will be open to the public for two hours immediately following the Memorial Day Parade and ceremony at the Soldiers Monument.
The members of the Fire Department are looking forward to showing everyone the new addition and upgrades.
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.
Hancock’s parade begins at 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, where there will be a ceremony. Selectman Jack Ross said the library will hold a bake sale beginning at 9 a.m. The Hancock Town Pride Committee will be distributing sunflower seedlings that they hope will be planted around town to give Hancock a sunflower theme this summer.
Bristol American Legion Post Commander Ron LaRose refers to the Memorial Day festivities as a “small town parade.” 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. The will proceed eastward on West Street to the village green, where Legion Post 19 will host its traditional Memorial Day Ceremony.
Lt. Col. Randall Gates of the Vermont Army National Guard (see biographical sketch) will be the guest speaker at the Bristol event.
Vergennes’ Memorial Day parade is one of the largest and best attended in Vermont.
With the theme of “Honor and Remember,“ 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.
Leading the parade this year as parade marshals will be a group of local World War II veterans representing all members of “The Greatest Generation.” From a reviewing stand in front of City Park, Legion Auxiliary President Martha DeGraaf will announce the participating groups and individuals as they pass by. Among these, in addition to the parade marshals, will be guest speaker Brig. Gen. Brian Carpenter of the Vermont Army National Guard, and American Legion Auxiliary Department of Vermont Past President Pam Norton. Accompanying Norton will be this year’s Poppy Girls, Mallory Brace and Octavia Devine of Ferrisburgh.
Following the parade, American Legion Post 14 member John Mitchell will take the podium as master of ceremonies on the bandstand in the park. The VUHS Band under the direction of Susan O’Daniel will play the National Anthem prior to an invocation by the Rev. Phillip Westra, pastor of Champlain Valley Christian Reformed Church in Vergennes. Vergennes Mayor Bill Benton will deliver greetings from the host city and recognize state and local dignitaries and office holders. It is anticipated that among these will be Gov. Peter Shumlin and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders.
Retired Navy Petty Officer First Class Spencer Norton 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. Bailey Bissonette of Addison will recite “In Flanders Field.” She is the daughter of Henry and Michelle Bissonette. Following that, Stephanie Anderson, daughter of Aldor and Margaret Anderson, also of Addison, will recite Lincoln’s “Gettysburg Address.” Both are students at VUHS. Their recitations will be interspersed with musical selections by the VUHS Band.
Brig. Gen. Carpenter, the owner and president of Champlain Valley Equipment in Middlebury, served on active duty with the U.S. Army for nine years following his graduation from college in 1984 and has been in the National Guard since his release from active duty. He was promoted to Brigadier General in 2011.
Following his address, 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 and Vergennes residents Matteo Palmer and K.C. Ambrose of the VUHS band will sound taps. The ceremonies will conclude with benediction offered by Pastor Westra and the playing of “America the Beautiful” by the VUHS band.
Following the parade, all are cordially invited to the 50th annual chicken barbecue under the tent at the Legion Post, 100 Armory Lane. Tickets are $7.50.