While summer may not start officially until mid-June, local residents are already gearing up for what many consider the unofficial start to the summer months: Memorial Day weekend. Anthony Rodrigues, president of the city’s Veterans Council, wants to make this kick-off to summer one to remember as he prepares for the upcoming Memorial Day Parade on May 27.
Rodrigues said he has lined up over 300 people, including local police and fire departments, scout troops, high school marching bands, acrobats, antique cars and even local beauty queens for Monday’s event.
The parade will, for the first time in recent memory, also feature a speaking program, including Mayor Scott Avedisian, City Council President Donna Travis and Ward 3 Councilwoman Camille Vella-Wilkinson. Rodrigues credited both Travis and Vella-Wilkinson for their contributions in getting groups and performers for the parade.
Earlier this year, Rodrigues voiced concerns over the council’s parade budget, which had been cut from $5,000 to $2,750, according to an earlier report by the Beacon. Rodrigues appealed to the mayor and Travis for more funding but was unsuccessful.
“Things are just rough,” said Travis, who is Rodrigues’ sister. “Everybody and everything is being cut.”
Despite less funding, Travis said she is confident that the parade would be even bigger than last year’s, thanks to increased efforts to reach out to local groups and residents.
“No one group can be singled out [as the best] because they are all going to be incredible,” she said. “It’s a special day to commemorate and remember.”
Rodrigues added that helping people remember the true meaning behind the parade was his and the council’s main goal.
“It’s a memorial primarily for those who served and passed away in service to their country, but it’s also for those still living and those still serving,” he said. “It’s all-encompassing.”
Rodrigues has been with the council for 16 years, and served as president previously in 2001. He said that although the group has decreased significantly in size, he hopes that younger veterans will “fill the ranks” to help continue the council’s work on events like the annual parade.
With the parade coming up and most of those marching in it ready to go, all Rodrigues said he can hope for now is good weather and good attendance.
The parade leaves from the parking lot at Hendricken High School at 9:15 a.m., and ends at the memorial in front of Vets High School. Rodrigues said the parade and speaking segment will conclude by 11 a.m.