No parade recognizing our veterans could ever be too big.
That’s the opinion of Anthony Rodrigues, president of the city’s Veterans Council, and the man in charge of this year’s Memorial Day parade on May 27.
But big parades haven’t been an issue and that has Rodrigues concerned. In recent times, with the thinning of their ranks and a reduction in funding, the Veterans Council has found it increasingly difficult to stage a respectable parade.
Rodrigues points out that there was a time when bands from all four of the city’s high schools, plus one from Gorton, marched in the parade that traditionally follows a route from the parking lot at Hendricken High School on Oakland Beach Avenue to West Shore Road and concludes at the memorial in front of Vets High. The parade forms at 9:15 a.m. and is usually over 45 minutes later.
So far, Rodrigues has lined up the Pilgrim and Vets marching bands. The Johnston High School band is also on board. The Veterans Council pays the bands several hundred dollars to cover the cost of transportation.
Rodrigues said the city used to give the Veterans Council $5,000, but that has been cut to $2,750. In addition to the parade, costs include the refreshment truck to provide hotdogs and soda to marchers and a few spectators and wreaths. The council also places wreaths on at least 40 veterans’ markers throughout the city.
Rodrigues has raised the issue of funding with the city and even with his sister, Donna Travis, as City Council President, but it doesn’t look like there will be more money. He said it was suggested that the Veterans Council conduct fundraisers.
“There are only half a dozen of us left,” Rodrigues lamented. “Half the time we can’t make meetings because we’re sick.”
For this year’s parade, Rodrigues expects the Boy and Girl Scouts to march as well as contingents from the National Guard and Warwick Police and Fire Departments. He said tow truck companies have been invited to participate, as in the past, and he expects the Greenwood Volunteer Fire Company to bring their vintage truck. There will also be a space in the parade for classic and antique cars.
Rodrigues has also put out the word to elected officials and is hopeful of having members of the Congressional delegation in the parade, if not on the reviewing stand, and for comments at the end.
Most of all, Rodrigues is looking for a turnout befitting of a tribute to our veteran men and women.
He urged those interested in assisting him, or marching in the parade, to contact him at 919-8951 or 737-1909.